Sports Desk, May 6 (EFE).- Villarreal can look forward to their first-ever European final after stifling Arsenal 0-0 Thursday in the second leg of their Europa League semifinal to win the tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Though the hosts had more possession, they struggled to create chances and their most promising efforts, both from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, were thwarted by the post.
The Gunners saw the hope of extending to 26 their string of consecutive seasons in Europe disappear.
Currently ninth in the Premier League with four games left, Arsenal’s chances of a top-six finish are vanishingly small, making triumph in the Europa League their best option to secure European play in 2021-2022.
After crashing out of the Europa League in the semis on four previous occasions, Villarreal are through to the final in their first campaign under coach Unai Emery, who guided Sevilla to three straight titles in the competition.
And taking the Yellow Submarine to the final at the expense of Arsenal likely made the achievement all the sweeter for Emery, who was fired by the Gunners three months into the 2019-2020 season.
Thanks to their away goal in the first leg, Mikel Arteta’s men started Thursday’s contest at London’s Emirates Stadium knowing that a 1-0 result would be enough to send them to the final in Gdansk.
Yet Villarreal were more ambitious in the early going and Samuel Chukwueze forced Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno into action in the 4th minute.
Dani Parejo sent a free kick for the visitors just over the cross-bar in the 23rd minute, three minutes before Aubameyang watched his blast bounce off the outside of the far post.
Villarreal lost impetus going forward after Chukwueze was carried off the pitch on a stretcher at the half-hour mark.
With six minutes left in the first half, Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe got the ball in midfield and gained the area before passing to Aubameyang, whose shot caused problems for keeper Gero Rulli.
The Gunners were sharper after the break. Nicolas Pepe fired just wide in the 47th minute and Smith Rowe didn’t miss by much in the 49th after a mistake by Rulli left the ball at the feet of the Arsenal youngster.
Gerard Moreno squandered an opening to seal the victory for Villarreal in the 53rd minute, sending a weak shot into the hands of Leno.
Arsenal won a free kick from a dangerous position inside the last 20 minutes and Bukayo Saka delivered a fine ball into the area for Rob Holding, who headed just over the net.
What would prove to be the Gunners’ last charge culminated with an Aubameyang header that hit the post in the 79th minute. EFE msg/dr