Emiliano Martinez was the unsurprising star of a dramatic penalty shootout as Aston Villa edged past Lille and into the semi-final of the Europa Conference League.

The Argentina goalkeeper, who helped his country win the World Cup 18 months ago, produced some similar heroics in France, saving spot-kicks from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre to earn a 4-3 shootout win after the quarter-final had ended 3-3 on aggregate after two legs.

There was plenty of his trademark dark arts on show as he shushed the baiting French crowd, who had not forgotten what happened in Qatar, and then caused confusion by receiving a yellow card from the referee in the middle of the shootout, having already been booked in normal time.

But bookings are not carried forward into the shootout meaning he could stay on and send Villa into a first European semi-final since 1982.

They were not deserving of victory, though, as they were outplayed for the majority of the second leg in France, with goals from Yusuf Yazici and Andre overturning a 2-1 first leg advantage.

Matty Cash’s 87th-minute strike sent it to extra-time, with Martinez coming up trumps in the shootout to give boss Unai Emery an eighth successive European quarter-final victory.

The Spaniard, so prolific in the Europa League with Sevilla and Villarreal will be eyeing another European trophy.

Mikel Arteta insists title-chasing Arsenal are taking each game at a time as they head into their final seven matches of the Premier League season.

The Gunners went into the weekend leading Liverpool on goal difference and sitting a point ahead of Manchester City.

Arteta’s men, who drew 2-2 with Bayern Munich in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Emirates on Tuesday, face Unai Emery’s Aston Villa on Sunday.

“It is the only thing possible to look at one day and one game,” Arteta told a press conference on Friday.

“It is the only thing that is possible because it’s the only thing that maintains your focus and determines the tasks that you have to do on the day, which is the only thing that you can control.”

The title race is set to go down to the wire as Arsenal set their sights on securing the Premier League title for the first time since 2004.

The north Londoners could find themselves knocked off top spot should Manchester City beat Luton and Liverpool pick up any points against Crystal Palace in the earlier fixtures.

Arteta called for his team to focus on themselves going into Sunday’s clash at the Emirates.

“We will know the results but we’ll still have our duty to win our game which is the only thing that we can control,” he added.

“That’s happened a few times already and it’s going to happen again in the next few weeks, so we’ll just focus on what we can do.

“It’s the most beautiful part of the season coming up right now and a very busy schedule. We’re going to have a really tough (game) against a really good side, and are we going to have to be really good to beat them.”

Injury-stricken Villa have some notable absences with the likes of Matty Cash, Douglas Luiz, Jacob Ramsey and Boubacar Kamara ruled out of the tie.

Arteta wants Arsenal to take advantage of their opponent’s poor fortunes.

He said: “We always try to use things to our advantage. We don’t know what they are going to do and that’s nothing we can control. They still won last night and they are a really good side, so we know the danger and we know our strengths as well, and we’ll try to do what we have to do to win.”

Ange Postecoglou will not entertain talk of revenge when Tottenham visit Aston Villa on Sunday.

Spurs travel to Villa Park for what will be a crucial match in the battle for Champions League qualification with the hosts currently occupying fourth spot in the Premier League.

Villa have also won the last three meetings with Tottenham, but the narrative of revenge surrounds an incident from the previous clash on November 25.

The fixture marked Rodrigo Bentancur’s first start in nine months. However, it was cut short by an ill-timed tackle from Villa full-back Matty Cash that earned him a caution and forced Bentancur off after 32 minutes with an ankle injury.

Cash’s challenge sparked a melee between both sets of players and had unavailable Spurs personnel gunning for the defender, who was later given an escort by his team-mates to the away dressing room at half-time, but Postecoglou laughed off suggestions payback could be on the cards.

He insisted: “No interest mate.

“For us, the challenge is to face a really good team, with really strong home form and beyond that you’d be surprised about how little that stuff infiltrates what we do and sort of our motivations for a game of football.

“If anything, they’re the type of things where you hope that as you mature and develop as a team become less and less important or a focus.

“When you’re clutching at those kinds of things, you’re losing sense of what’s important. What’s important for us is to be at our best against a very good football team and try to get a result.”

Cristian Romero was suspended for Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat to Villa in November but made clear his disapproval of Cash’s tackle from his seat by the home dugout.


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The Argentina defender is no stranger to a poor challenge after he was sent off for catching Enzo Fernandes of Chelsea on the shin earlier this season, but that red card is a rare blot on a largely clean copybook for Romero this term.

Appointed vice-captain by Postecoglou last summer, Romero has relished the extra responsibility and been able to swap his previous recklessness for a new-found level of composure that has seen him yet to be booked in 2024.

This time last year Romero had received two red cards and already been shown nine cautions, but alongside one sending-off this season, he has also only been given four yellows, while his average tackles per league game has decreased from 2.5 to 2 and fouls per game reduced from 1.6 to 0.7.

Postecoglou lavished praise on his centre-back, who has developed a new habit for goals after he headed in his fourth of the campaign in last weekend’s 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace.

“He’s outstanding but I thought he was from day one,” Postecoglou said.

“He’s a World Cup winner as a starter. Not just part of the squad or as a contributor.

“He’s got great pedigree, he’s a great defender, great guy, very driven, very motivated. Highly, highly competitive in everything he does and I love that.

“There’s nothing more you’d want in an athlete and he’s a great example for the rest of the guys.”

Spurs will have Pedro Porro available for the Villa Park clash, but Richarlison is set to remain sidelined with a knee injury.

Middlesbrough boss Michael Carrick is hopeful his side can take the “positive experiences” from their FA Cup third-round loss into their Carabao Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Boro were knocked out of the FA Cup by Matty Cash’s late strike in the 87th minute, which took a deflection into the bottom corner.

However, Boro’s attention quickly turns to the Carabao Cup, where they come up against Premier League Chelsea at the Riverside on Tuesday and Carrick hopes his players can take inspiration from their performance against Aston Villa.

He said post-match: “The boys are disappointed, which is good that they’re disappointed.

“It’s not an acceptance of ‘we’ve got beat’, it shows to me, more importantly, how much they felt they were right in the game. That’ll help us.

“We’ve got a lot of young boys in there that are learning, developing and experiences like that and the positive experiences we’ll take from it are no end for Tuesday hopefully and to the end of the season.”

Two games against Chelsea stand in the way of Boro reaching the final of the Carabao Cup, which they won in 2004, and Carrick insists his side are already relishing the test against the Blues.

“I won’t have to lift them (for the Chelsea match),” he added.

“It’s a huge game for us obviously, for each individual it’s a massive game, but for us collectively it’s a massive game.

“There won’t be any issues with recovery or motivation, my job’s already done for that one, they’ve done it themselves by getting into a semi-final.

“It’s a different game completely in terms of tactically and the dangers Chelsea have got, we’ll obviously have to adapt and look forward to that.

“They’re dangerous, at any point they can change a game, we know that.”

The 1-0 victory on Saturday night saw Aston Villa break their poor FA Cup run to progress to the fourth round for the first time since 2016.

Their best chances came from a succession of corners in the second half where goalkeeper Tom Glover pulled off an excellent save to deny John McGinn before Ezri Konsa’s header smashed off the inside of the post and Alex Moreno blasted the ball over the bar from close range.

The winning moment fell to Cash who struck from outside of the box to beat Glover and he revealed it was something he had worked on in training.

He told VillaTV: “I think I’ve worked closely on it in training, out of the box shooting and trying to keep the ball on target, and that’s all you can do.

“Obviously got a lucky deflection but I’m delighted it’s gone in, I’m really happy to get a goal.

“Since I’ve been here I haven’t progressed through to the next round, we made it clear before the game we wanted to do that and we’re obviously delighted to get into the fourth round.”

Aston Villa manager Unai Emery hailed his side’s mentality as they beat Middlesbrough 1-0 in their third-round FA Cup clash at the Riverside.

The Premier League high-flyers reached the fourth round thanks to Matty Cash’s deflected winner in the 87th minute.

Villa had chances in the first half from Jhon Duran and Leander Dendoncker before threatening in the first 15 minutes of the second half as John McGinn, Ezri Konsa and Alex Moreno all came close from a succession of corners.

Cash eventually sent them through to the next round from a short corner in the final stages and Emery praised the maturity in his team to push for the winner.

“We played big passions, being mature, I think we are growing up our mentality in matches like that,” Emery said.

“At the beginning we were favourite to win, but difficult to face each match.

“They prepared and tactically they played a very good match and even when they were keeping more possession on the transition they threatened us.

“We were always in control of the game and even the 15 minute, 20 minutes in the second half they were in that moment in control of the game better than us, after we had the three chances in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

“We were being passionate and trying to keep in our mind our gameplan and after that moment we reacted again, we pushed in the last minute because we took two or three chances and we scored one of them.”

Villa were dumped out of the FA Cup by Stevenage in the third round last season, and Emery revealed his side had spoken about their history of the competition ahead of the Boro clash.

“We were speaking before the match about the FA Cup, a very historic cup competition, maybe the best cup competition in the world,” Emery added.

“We’re speaking about our players, how much they were successful in this competition – not a lot! Only Emiliano (Martinez) and Calum Chambers won with Arsenal.

“A long time Aston Villa was successful in this competition with seven titles.

“Of course we are here trying to do another step ahead in this club, trying to play facing different competition and trying to be contending to get something.”

Carabao Cup semi-finalists Middlesbrough missed out on another cup run, but still had their opportunities in the game as Alex Bangura created some good chances and Morgan Rogers tested Martinez.

Cash’s late strike came as a cruel blow to Michael Carrick’s side, who had defended well throughout, but the Boro boss was “so proud” of their performance.

He said: “I thought the whole game, to be honest, was good. Really happy with them at half-time.

“They had a little bit more of the game in some ways second half, but I thought in general in the circumstances against the team we were playing against, I thought they were fantastic, the lads, I’m so proud of them.

“Tactically they were spot on in terms of their discipline, concentration, we played some good football at times to play that pressure and we probably had more opportunities to create chances than actually the chances themselves but we definitely looked dangerous enough in the game.

“Disappointed not to get anything from it really.”

Matty Cash’s late winner saw Aston Villa progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup as they beat Middlesbrough 1-0.

Carabao Cup semi-finalists Boro were denied another cup run when Cash’s deflected strike found the bottom corner in the 87th minute.

The Premier League side had threatened from corners in the second half and a set-piece ultimately proved to be Boro’s undoing as Unai Emery’s side prevailed.

The first chance of the contest fell to Villa when Boubacar Kamara flicked the ball to Jhon Duran, who cut in from the left and fired towards the bottom corner but goalkeeper Tom Glover stuck out a leg to turn the ball behind.

The visitors grew into the game and Alex Moreno caused problems with some dangerous crosses, one finding Cash who smashed the ball into the crowded Boro box.

Alex Bangura tried to catch Villa on the break with some good balls through to Josh Coburn and posed a threat after latching on to a great cross-field ball, but Villa were able to clear.

The game suddenly sprung into life in the 32nd minute when Jacob Ramsey’s powerful shot was deflected over the bar and Leander Dendoncker narrowly headed over from the resulting corner.

Duran then forced a great save from Glover and Boro raced up the other end of the pitch as Dan Barlaser threaded the ball to Morgan Rogers, but Emiliano Martinez managed to palm it away for a corner.

The hosts had a great chance just on the cusp of half-time as Bangura fired a dangerous cross across the box, but neither Coburn nor Isaiah Jones could stab home.

A frenetic opening to the second half saw Glover make a fantastic save just four minutes in as a short corner allowed John McGinn to unleash a powerful strike on the edge of the box, but the goalkeeper tipped the ball over the crossbar.

Villa threatened again from corners in the 52nd minute as Ezri Konsa’s header smashed off the inside of the far post and another set-piece one minute later saw Moreno blast the ball over the bar from close range.

They had a penalty shout waved away when Moreno went down in the box and Boro began to threaten at the other end as Clement Lenglet made a fantastic slide to deny Jones’ cross.

The Villa defence were forced to clear a number of balls fired into the box and manager Emery responded with a quadruple change in the 70th minute, bringing on Ollie Watkins, Moussa Diaby, Douglas Luiz and Nicolo Zaniolo.

Emmanuel Latte Lath did well to flick Douglas Luiz’s free-kick behind and the Boro forward was soon involved at the other end of the pitch as Martinez smothered his run from the left.

Diaby had a great chance in the Boro box but scuffed his shot before Martinez was called into action again to hold Rogers’ cross.

Villa struck in the 87th minute as another short corner fell to Cash outside the box and his effort took a deflection off Latte Lath to beat Glover and send Villa through.

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