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Reds come back to book final spot

Liverpool overcame a spirited Villarreal performance to book their spot in the Champions League final with a 3-2 away win, netting three second-half goals after seeing their first-leg lead wiped out in Spain.

Boulaye Dia handed Unai Emery’s men an early lead in front of a boisterous home crowd, before Francis Coquelin stunned the below-par visitors by wiping out their aggregate lead on the stroke of half-time.

But Liverpool grew into the game after their dismal start, and after Geronimo Rulli failed to make a routine stop from Fabinho’s effort, half-time substitute Luis Diaz headed home to send Jurgen Klopp’s men to the final.

Sadio Mane raced clear to round Rulli and roll home a late third to make the result safe before Etienne Capoue was sent off late on, keeping the Reds on course to cap an incredible season by winning four major trophies.

After failing to record a single shot on target at Anfield, the Yellow Submarine needed just three minutes to open the scoring, Dia tapping home after Capoue turned Pervis Estupinan’s delivery across goal.

Gerard Moreno saw a close-range header blocked as the visitors produced a dreadful first-half performance, and the Reds’ advantage, which looked to be decisive prior to kick-off, was wiped out when Coquelin sparked wild scenes by heading Capoue’s cross into the top-left corner.

Trent Alexander-Arnold struck the top of the crossbar with a deflected effort as Liverpool improved after the break, before Fabinho drilled a low shot through the legs of Rulli to restore the visitors’ aggregate lead after 62 minutes.

Diaz went close to bending home a superb second moments later, but was on hand to nod home Alexander-Arnold’s cross after 67 minutes and put the Reds back in full command of the tie.

The tie was settled once and for all when Mane took advantage of another Rulli error after 74 minutes, rounding the keeper well outside his area before rolling home to secure Liverpool’s progress, with Capoue then dismissed for a second yellow card after fouling Curtis Jones.

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Muller stunned as Bayern crash out of Champions League

Thomas Muller says Bayern Munich’s elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Villarreal is “difficult to accept”.

The Bundesliga leaders crashed out in the quarter-finals for the second season running, as Samuel Chukwueze’s late strike at the Allianz Arena snatched a 1-1 draw on the night – and a 2-1 aggregate victory for the Europa League holders.

Julian Nagelsmann’s side, beaten 1-0 in the first leg, dominated the game as they sought a ninth win from 11 Champions League quarter-final ties.

But despite Robert Lewandowski drawing them level early in the second half, Bayern were unable to capitalise on their superiority as they could only find the back of the net once from 23 attempts at goal.

And the Bavarian giants were stunned two minutes from time, when Chukwueze rounded off a devastating counter-attack to send Villarreal through to a first semi-final in this competition in 16 years.

Muller knows Bayern only have themselves to blame for lacking a cutting edge.

“If you take just this game into account, without the first game, we should have gone through convincingly,” he told Amazon Prime.

“It’s difficult to accept this; I don’t know what to say.

“It’s bitter to concede after that performance. With the fans behind us, we pushed, pushed, pushed from the start. We have to do more in front of goal.”

Head coach Nagelsmann said the nature of Bayern’s exit left a sour taste in the mouth.

The head coach added: “The first leg was the key. Today, we did very well. It was one of our best games. But we should have made it 2-0 in the second half.

“It’s all very bitter. We had very little space, there was always a danger of getting hit on the counter, and creating many chances against such a deep defence is hard. 

“If you don’t win and get eliminated, that’s just the way it is.”

Villarreal will do battle with Liverpool or Benfica for a place in the final.

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Villarreal clinched the final place in the last 16 of the Champions League on Thursday, while Leicester failed to advance in the Europa League.

Villarreal beat Atalanta 3-2 away in a game postponed from Wednesday because of heavy snow in northern Italy.

The Spanish side only needed a draw to advance as runner-up from Group F but jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the 51st minute, with Arnaut Danjuma scoring twice. Atalanta answered with goals from Duvan Zapata and substitute Ruslan Malinovskyi but it was too late to turn things around.

Atalanta finished third in the group and will enter a playoff to get into the last 16 of the second-tier Europa League, the competition Villarreal won last season.

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Cristiano Ronaldo delivered yet another critical late Champions League goal before Jadon Sancho got his first in a Manchester United shirt to give caretaker manager Michael Carrick a 2-0 victory over Villarreal.

United were far from convincing against a side 12th in LaLiga, but where there is Ronaldo there is a way and his sixth Champions League goal of the season, 12 minutes from time, set them on course for victory.

The Portuguese then helped start a move capped by Sancho in the last minute of the 90, with the England forward crashing a shot off the underside of the bar to confirm United’s place in the knockout stages and ending the three-match winless run that cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer his job.

Elsewhere United’s managerial search continued – Ernesto Valverde the latest candidate linked with the interim role as Mauricio Pochettino played down his interest in swapping Paris St Germain for Old Trafford – but here the focus was on Carrick.

The 40-year-old, who was integral to Solskjaer’s set-up and had said in Tuesday’s press conference that his ideas were similar to the Norwegian’s, made a major statement on the teamsheet with Donny van de Beek, starting only his third match of the season, selected ahead of Bruno Fernandes.

That was one of four changes – Alex Telles came in for Luke Shaw in an enforced move, while Anthony Martial and Fred came in for Nemanja Matic and Marcus Rashford.

United fans, high above the goal in Villarreal’s El Madrigal, sang Solskjaer’s name during a seven-minute delay to kick-off due to problems with the officials’ radio sets.

When play did get under way, Martial partnered Ronaldo in attack with Van de Beek at the tip of a diamond midfield, though United struggled to make much of an impression going forward.

Scott McTominay had an early chance from a free-kick, heading into the side-netting, but it was a familiar story of United looking too passive in midfield, and giving away possession too easily to offer Villarreal chances.

The best of them came in the 27th minute when Pino pulled the ball inside for Manu Trigueros, whose first-time shot was kept out by a strong hand from David De Gea.

Carrick, prowling the technical area, watched on as Ronaldo headed straight at Geronimo Rulli before firing a free-kick into the wall from a dangerous position.

But the better openings were at the other end. Arnaut Danjuma, an injury doubt before the match, fired wide after Aaron Wan- Bissaka lost possession.

It was De Gea to the rescue again just before the hour mark, with the goalkeeper denying Trigueros with a strong right hand after Danjuma’s shot was deflected into the midfielder’s path.

United were living dangerously, with Danjuma firing over after Wan-Bissaka allowed him too much space.

But Carrick’s double substitution of Van de Beek and Martial for Fernandes and Rashford changed the game, with United on the front foot thereafter.

Sancho brought a fine save from Rulli after cutting in from the right and exchanging passes with Ronaldo.

Moments later, United led, and this time Rulli needed to hold his hands up. The goalkeeper’s short pass played Etienne Capoue into trouble. Fred got a toe to the ball and Ronaldo did the rest with a lob over Rulli.

The Portuguese almost had another five minutes later, a short header back from Juan Foyth allowing him to nip in but he poked his shot just wide.

Villarreal were run ragged – Rashford shot straight at Rulli before Fernandes’ effort was deflected wide, and United inflicted the killer blow at the death.

Ronaldo started the counter in which Rashford and Fernandes switched play to the right, where Sancho fired home to leave the traveling fans chanting Carrick’s name.

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Manchester United and Chelsea eye knockout qualification

Chelsea and Manchester United fly the English flag on Tuesday with both clubs knowing victories will ensure progression.

Life after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer begins for United with a difficult trip to Villarreal in Group F.

The duo are level at the top but know that Atalanta will look to take advantage of whichever team drops points.

Donny van de Beek is one player who may find himself given a real chance at Old Trafford after Solskjaer’s reluctance to play him.

Our match preview focuses on the Dutchman and considers what he can bring to the Red Devils in the short term.

Chelsea can secure their spot in the knockout stages with victory over Group H leaders Juventus at Stamford Bridge.

Juve’s 100% record means they are assured of a spot in the last 16 but the Blues will want three points and the chance to top the group.

Christian Pulisic returned from his injury troubles with a goal at Leicester on Saturday and may be given a chance to shine against the Italian giants.

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Cristiano Ronaldo capped his record-breaking Champions League appearance by firing Manchester United to a stunning late comeback win against Europa League final foes Villarreal.

Just four months on from the penalty shoot-out loss to Unai Emery’s side in Gdansk, the sides met again with the Red Devils needing to make up for their shock defeat at Young Boys in the Group F opener.

A disjointed United were staring down the barrel of a third straight home defeat in all competitions when Paco Alcacer deservedly put Villarreal ahead.

But Alex Telles’ sublime volley gave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side hope and Ronaldo secured a 2-1 win in stoppage time, sending Old Trafford wild on the night he broke Iker Casillas’ all-time Champions League appearances record.

It was a box-office end to his 178th appearance in the competition and a relief to all those connected with United, after David De Gea had to produce some superb saves to keep Villarreal at bay in a one-sided first half.

The Spaniards continued to threaten after the break and finally capitalised on the hosts’ issues defending down the right early in the second period, with Alcacer turning home the impressive Arnaut Danjuma’s cross.

United levelled in stunning fashion soon after with Telles’ rocket from a smart Bruno Fernandes free-kick, but both sides looked to have blown glorious chances to win.

Yet, just as the match looked set to end level, Ronaldo struck in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time, meeting a smart Jesse Lingard touch with an unerring finish from an acute angle.

It was an incredible end to a night that started terribly as Villarreal made life a misery for a backline without Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

United right-back Diogo Dalot had a particularly tough time against fleet-footed Danjuma, who followed an early warning shot with a curling effort that De Gea did well to stop.

Fernandes and Ronaldo had attempts during that period but Villarreal were asking bigger questions.

De Gea tipped over a close-range Alcacer header after Danjuma bamboozled Dalot, who the former Bournemouth player roared past before prodding into the side-netting.

Even watching United fan Usain Bolt would have been impressed by his turn of speed.

The hosts’ poor performance even saw Raphael Varane wobble as the normally unflappable defender misread a long past forward and Alcacer strike narrowly struck wide from the edge of the box.

Alberto Moreno, constantly reminded of his Liverpool connection, came closest for United when directing just wide of his own goal.

Yeremi Pino forced De Gea into another save before the break, with Villarreal deservedly going ahead eight minutes after the restart.

Unsurprisingly the visitors got joy down United’s right-hand side, with Danjuma crossing for Alcacer to turn home from close range.

The goal belatedly sparked Solskjaer’s side into life, with Fernandes flashing a 20-yard effort across the face of goal before he provided the assist for a stunning 60th minute leveller.

The United captain clipped a free-kick from the right up to the edge of the box, where Telles met the ball with a sensational volley that Geronimo Rulli could do nothing to stop

Jadon Sancho slipped at the wrong moment when trying to get a shot away soon after, with Mason Greenwood forcing Villarreal’s goalkeeper into a low stop from a difficult angle.

Solskjaer turned to Edinson Cavani and the introduction nearly brought an immediate reward, only for him to somehow head wide a Greenwood cross.

Villarreal were then wondering how they failed to grab a winner of their own.

De Gea could only push a Moi Gomez strike into the path of Boulaye Dia, with the United goalkeeper instinctively stopping the follow up before Telles blocked the substitute’s next attempt.

Scott McTominay saw a volley saved in stoppage time and Rulli denied Lingard as the clock wound down.

But United do not know when they are beaten and Ronaldo rocked the ground to its foundations when striking home from an acute angle following a deft Lingard touch.

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Manchester United’s wait for their first trophy under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues after David De Gea saw his spot-kick saved at the end of a wild shootout that saw Villarreal crowned Europa League champions.

On this day 22 years ago, the Norwegian wrote himself into club folklore when turning home at the death as Sir Alex Ferguson’s side fought back to win the Champions League and complete the treble.

But May 26, 2021 did not provide another triumphant chapter in United’s success-laden story, with the match ending 1-1 and going to a penalty shootout after Edinson Cavani cancelled out Gerard Moreno’s opener.

All outfield players scored their spot-kicks, as did Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli before saving De Gea’s penalty to win the shootout 11-10 and secure the first major trophy in their history.

It was a heartbreaking end to a promising season for United, who finished as Premier League runners-up and showed clear signs of progress.

But defending set-pieces has been a problem throughout and Moreno opened the scoring when all too easily meeting Dani Parejo’s terrific free-kick.

Cavani levelled early in the second half after Marcus Rashford’s volley fell kindly for him from close range and Villarreal clung on for extra-time, which Unai Emery’s men edged before triumphing on penalties.

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Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has accompanied the current squad to the Europa League final against Villarreal in Gdansk.

Manchester United will take on Villarreal in the finals of the Europa League on Wednesday and the squad departed for Gdansk on Monday afternoon. Ferguson had then joined the traveling party on the flight, reported

United is just one game away from registering their first title win under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Solskjaer has played under Alex Ferguson and in 1999, the current manager had scored a famous goal against Barcelona to hand United a victory in the Champions League final.

Manchester United managed to win the Premier League title 13 times under Sir Alex Ferguson, with the last win coming in 2013.

United finished at the second spot in the Premier League standings for the 2020-21 season.

United have taken 26 players with them for the finals of the Europa League. Anthony Martial has returned to training, but he has not travelled with the squad.

Goalkeepers: David De Gea, Dean Henderson, Lee Grant, Nathan Bishop

Defenders: Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Alex Telles, Axel Tuanzebe, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Brandon Williams

Midfielders: Amad Diallo, Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek

Forwards: Edinson Cavani, Anthony Elanga, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, Shola Shoretire.

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Arsenal face a first season without European football in 25 years after drawing a blank in their Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal.

The Gunners were trailing 2-1 from the first leg in Spain and failed to overturn the deficit as Unai Emery got one over his former club to once again reach the final of a competition he thrives in.

A 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium means Arsenal’s hopes of playing in Europe next season rely on an unlikely string of results in the Premier League.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the post with Arsenal’s best chance as another tactical tweak from manager Mikel Arteta failed to pay off.

Emery won the Europa League three times as Sevilla manager and took Arsenal to the final in 2019, where they lost to Chelsea.

Manchester United will be waiting for Emery’s Villarreal this time around as Arsenal’s exit prevented both Europa League and Champions League finals from being all-English affairs.

Arsenal lost Granit Xhaka after complaining of a tight muscle in the warm-up, but it was in attack where Arteta’s side were again found wanting.

Recalled Bernd Leno was the first goalkeeper tested, having to push a curling Samuel Chukwueze strike behind for a corner.

The next threat to his goal came from a team-mate as Thomas Partey’s overhit back-pass had to be headed clear by the retreating goalkeeper.

Leno would have got nowhere near a Dani Parejo free-kick at the midway point of the half, but fortunately for the hosts his effort whistled over the crossbar.

Arsenal had started much nervier than Villarreal but could have taken the lead when Aubameyang hit a dropping volley which clipped the post on the way behind.

The Arsenal skipper came close with an effort as the half wore on, shooting straight at Geronimo Rulli in the Villarreal goal only for him to spill through his legs and scrabble back to save.

Nicolas Pepe, whose penalty have Arsenal their away goal, fired just wide as the hosts came out on the attack straight after the restart.

Arteta was then left with his head in his hands as Emile Smith Rowe attempted an audacious chip when well-placed, seeing the shot drift wide.

But it was not all going Arsenal’s way. Partey was robbed of possession just outside his own penalty area but Villarreal could not make him pay as Gerard Moreno’s shot was easily held by Leno.

Substitute Yeremi Pino was next to force Leno into action with a low strike well saved by the German.

With tempers starting to flare, Aubameyang saw a header kept out by a combination of goalkeeper and post with the rebound hacked off the line.

That would be his last action as Alexandre Lacazette came on in his place with Gabriel Martinelli, Willian and Eddie Nketiah all thrown on in search of the goal required to send Arsenal to the final in Gdansk.

But the attacking changes were in vain as Villarreal held on to reach a first major final in their history and all but end Arsenal’s season.

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Arsenal kept alive their hopes of reaching the Europa League final as a Nicolas Pepe penalty gave the 10-man visitors an away goal in defeat at Villarreal.

The first leg of this semi-final clash appeared to be getting away from the Gunners as first-half goals from Manuel Trigueros and Raul Albiol preceded a Dani Ceballos red card just before the hour.

But Pepe would convert from the spot to send Arsenal home with a 2-1 deficit, Villarreal having also been reduced to 10 men late on following the dismissal of former Tottenham man Etienne Capoue.

This is Arsenal’s third Europa League semi-final in four years but they have only made the final once in that time – under current Villarreal boss Unai Emery, who looked to be getting one over his former club as the hosts made a flying start.

Trigueros opened the scoring with just five minutes on the clock, driving home a low effort after indecision in the Arsenal box allowed Samuel Chukwueze to play in his team-mate.

Mikel Arteta was left ashen-faced as the lead was doubled before the half-hour, Albiol turning home at the back post as Arsenal failed to get anywhere near to a routine corner.

Pepe thought he had won a penalty after he was tripped inside the box but a VAR review deemed he had handled the ball in the build-up and the award was overturned.

The visitors failed to have a shot on target in the first half and could have been further behind if Bernd Leno had not made a fine stop to deny in-form Gerard Moreno.

But a red card for Ceballos, who was lucky not to pick up a second booking early in the second half, for standing on Dani Parejo looked to have Arteta’s men staring at elimination.

Instead they rallied and gave themselves hope of overturning the aggregate score next week at the Emirates Stadium.

Bukayo Saka broke into the Villarreal box and was caught by Trigueros, allowing Pepe to coolly slot home the resulting penalty.

When Capoue was then shown a second yellow card 10 minutes from time as he was taken off on a stretcher after fouling Saka, Arsenal even harboured hopes of an equaliser.

That was not to be, despite a late chance for returning captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but – given how the evening started – Arteta and his players will be pleased to still have a good chance of advancing to the final in Gdansk.