Man United - Villarreal set for Europa League final; Arsenal crash out
The 2020-21 Europa League final is set: Manchester United will face La Liga side Villarreal at the Stadion Miejski in Gdansk, Poland on Wednesday, May 26.
Arsenal 0-0 (1-2) Villarreal
The dream of an all-Premier League final was dashed on Thursday, as Arsenal were unable to overturn Villarreal’s 2-1 first-leg advantage at the Emirates Stadium. Former Arsenal manager Unai Emery, now in charge at Villarreal, will enjoy a hearty last laugh tonight.
Barring a furious finish to their Premier League campaign, Arsenal will not compete in European competition in 2021-21, for the first time since 1995. With four games left to play in the Premier League, Arsenal are 9th, five points back of 7th place where they will need to finish to qualify for the debut season of the Europa Conference League.
Arsenal didn’t tear out of the starting gate like one might expect a side trailing on aggregate with only 90 minutes left to reverse course. The lone exception came in the 26th minute, when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who made his first start since contracting and recovering from malaria, smashed the front side of the post.
Arteta’s (presumably heated) halftime message was heard loud and clear, though, as the Gunners took the game by the scruff of the neck in search of a tie-winning goal. Emile Smith Rowe looked like he might make it 1-0 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate (with the away-goals tiebreaker sending Arsenal through) in the 50th minute, but the 20-year-old midfielder put his curled strike well over the crossbar when he could have, and should have, done so much better.
For all the chances Arsenal managed to create in the second half, the football gods simply were not on their side on this day. Aubameyang rose high above his man in the 79th minute to reach Hector Bellerin’s cross, only to be denied by Geronimo Rulli’s left-hand post again.
Roma 3-2 (5-8) Manchester United
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was willing to take precisely zero chances despite holding a 6-2 advantage from the first leg, as the Manchester United boss picked a nearly full-strength side for the second leg in Rome. As a result, Manchester United are headed back to the Europa League final after winning the second-tier European competition under Jose Mourinho in 2017.
Edinson Cavani continued his late-season tear by scoring his sixth goal (to go with a pair of assists) in his last six appearances across all competitions. The finish was expertly dispatched, as expected.
Roma hit back through Edin Dzeko, who also scored in the first leg, in the 57th minute. Bryan Cristante quickly gave Roma a second goal to make it 7-4 on aggregate, but in truth they still needed a third, in extremely short order, to make the tie truly interesting at 7-5. At that point, Roma would need just two more to take the lead on away goals.
Alas, Cavani ran his goals total to seven in six games with a header just eight minutes later, making it 8-4 on aggregate and putting the tie well beyond reasonable doubt. A late goal scored by Nicola Zalewski made it marginally more respectable for Roma in the end.
Europa League final
Manchester United v Villarreal
Date: Wednesday, May 26
Time: 3 pm ET
Location: Stadion Miejski, Gdansk, Poland