It was on April 25, 2006. That day Villarreal was 11 meters away from forcing an extension that could have taken them to the Champions League final. But Jens Lehmann saved Juan Román Riquelme from a penalty in the 90th minute. With 0-0, Arsenal qualified for Paris (where they lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the final). Villarreal’s dream ended in tears. But, 15 years later, football has returned what it owed to the ‘groguet’ team, which since Wednesday is the Europa League champion. And after beating Manchester United on penalties. A maximum penalty took that dream. Penalties have given him this glory. After a 1-1 after extra time, 12-11 in the shoot.
On the occasion of the semifinal of this Europa League precisely against Arsenal, Villarreal remembered the ‘semi’ of the 2005-06 Champions through a video. “I remember it as if it were yesterday,” said Marcos Senna, one of the great references of that Yellow Submarine. It was clear to him that Villarreal had to take advantage of this opportunity this Wednesday.
United, Rangers, Inter
In this video, Villarreal gathered the testimony of several players who were protagonists of that semifinal against Arsenal, César Arzo, Héctor Font, Mariano Barbosa, Juanma Peña and Marcos Senna himself. Under the command of Manuel Pellegrini, in that Champions League (the first in which the ‘groguet’ team participated) Villarreal had left out rivals such as Manchester United (last in group D in the league), Rangers (in the second round) and Inter (in quarters).
Font and Arzo, both from Vila-real, explained in that video that they cried that night with the fans. In the first leg, on April 19, 2006, at Highbury, Villarreal lost 1-0. Kolo Koulé scored and it was the last match of a Euro Tournament to be played at the historic Arsenal stadium, which was transferred to the Emirates.
On the return leg, in a full, vibrant field, dreaming of the final, Pellegrini’s men could not take advantage of their chances, like those of Diego Forlán and Guille Franco. The penalty committed by Gaël Clichy on José Mari would have meant forcing the extension, but Riquelme, who had not missed any maximum penalty with Villarreal, could not transform it.
This May 26, finally, the glory did not escape Villarreal, who has won his first major European title. And from 11 meters.