Gdnask, Poland: Villarreal midfielder Francis Coquelin hailed his side’s “special” maiden major trophy, secured in stunning fashion with victory over Manchester United in the Europa League final on Wednesday.
Playing their first ever major European final, Unai Emery’s men clinched a memorable triumph 11-10 on penalties in Gdansk.
“It feels really good. It’s been a very tough competition,” Frenchman Coquelin told BT Sport. “What an end.”
The match finished 1-1 after extra time, with Man United striker Edinson Cavani having cancelled out Gerard Moreno’s first-half opener.
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Villarreal finished seventh in La Liga, but the win over United sees them jump from next season’s inaugural Europa Conference League into the Champions League group stage.
“We didn’t manage to get to the Champions League through the league, so to get through with our first title is amazing,” added former Arsenal midfielder Coquelin.
“Obviously to beat them in the final was something special. We will try to celebrate (despite Covid) because it’s something special for the club.”
Villarreal’s only previous silverware had been the Spanish third division in 1970 and two Intertoto Cups in 2003 and 2004. “We had a great match against one of the best teams in the world,” left-back Alfonso Pedraza told RMC Sport.
“We suffered, we did not have many chances, and then it was the lottery of penalties. A title for the supporters who are here, who helped us, we obviously dedicate it to all our supporters. It’s been a huge job this season.
“We knew that we would enter the Champions League if we won, it’s a double boost! It’s a reward for this whole group, the supporters... anything is possible.”
For Villarreal boss Unai Emery, it was a record fourth UEFA Cup/Europa League triumph as coach. “This season, we have not worked on penalties in training but the players have been fabulous,” he said.
“It’s amazing and wonderful that everyone has scored. It is a source of pride for Villarreal, the president, the project.
“The secret is work. The players showed a great mentality throughout the competition and in the final.”
“In the Europa League we have been absolutely impeccable. Since the very first moment. Some days we were coming at 6am to the stadium to prepare a game for the Sunday. All of this makes the journey (worthwhile),” Emery told a news conference.
“We were talking about enjoying these moments. In the end you are proud to reach the title (decider) but if you don’t win, you are sad. Winning is another step, an important step ahead. We do this profession for these moments. We have been able to give joy to many people.” Emery joined Villarreal in July 2020, nine months after he was sacked by English side Arsenal following a poor run of results.