Martínez's shootout heroics take Villa to Conference League SF

World Cup winner Emiliano Martínez produced more shootout heroics against French opposition, saving twice to help Aston Villa beat Lille 4-3 on penalties to reach the Europa Conference League semifinals in France on Thursday.

Martínez denied Nabil Bentaleb and, with the final kick, Benjamin André, to give secure Villa a semifinal with Olympiacos after the quarterfinal tie had finished 3-3 on aggregate following extra time. The Villa goalkeeper. who was booked during regulation time for time wasting, was also shown a second yellow card in the shootout for his disruptive antics but was allowed to continue as cautions do not carry over into penalties.

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Martínez had been booed throughout the contest by Lille fans, as a result of his actions that made him the center of attention in the 2022 World Cup final shootout.

The 31-year-old saved one France penalty and also earned a yellow card for his attempts to distract the opposition takers as Argentina lifted the trophy for the third time in Qatar, earning himself hero status in Argentina and the role of villain in France.

Emiliano Martínez's saves took Aston Villa to the Europa Conference League semifinals.

"He is very important for us," Aston Villa manager Unai Emery said of his keeper. "He has his personality and his personality in the dressing room is very important because he is a leader with his experiences.

"He has a really brilliant mentality. And then on the pitch he has his personality and he played fantastic. He saved two penalty shots so of course I am very proud of him. I am very proud of all the players."

After a 2-1 win in the first leg of the quarterfinal last week, Lille looked to be heading for the last four when goals from Yusuf Yazici and André in either half put them 3-2 up on aggregate.

But Matty Cash pulled Villa level over the tie with three minutes of regulation time remaining. Cash, Youri Tielemans, Ollie Watkins and Douglas Luiz then all scored in the shootout to, along with Martínez's saves, take Villa to their first European semifinal since 1982.

Information from Reuters contributed to this report.