Martínez the tainted hero as Aston Villa beat Lille in controversial shootout

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Emiliano Martínez;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Emiliano Martínez</a> shushes the crowd after saving Nabil Bentaleb’s penalty.</span><span>Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/Reuters</span>

Long before Emiliano Martínez was booked for time-wasting 39 minutes into this tempestuous knockout tie, there was an air of inevitability that the Aston Villa goalkeeper would prove the hero. So he was, with Martínez saving superbly from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin André in a 4-3 penalty shootout victory after Matty Cash’s speculative late strike prevented Lille from advancing and took the game to extra time. Martínez was mobbed by his teammates, Morgan Rogers jumping for a piggyback as Villa’s players charged towards their delirious supporters stationed high in the stand at the opposite end. That, however, is only half of the story.

The whole game boiled down to a ludicrous crescendo, Martínez the centre of attention. Of course, he relished being the pantomime villain as he took on a French team for the first time since his World Cup heroics for Argentina in Qatar, when he thwarted Kingsley Coman from 12 yards, and he was up to his old tricks. His every touch was jeered from the off by the locals and, already on a booking, he was cautioned again by the referee, Ivan Kruzliak, during the spot-kicks after being warned for gamesmanship – another dollop of shithousery, you could say – but avoided being sent off and leaving Villa in the unprecedented scenario of being without a goalkeeper for the rest of the shootout because cautions are not carried forward into penalties. At the time, nobody seemed too sure.

Related: Ollie Watkins is a real contender to be Premier League player of the season

After saving from Bentaleb, Martínez turned to shush the Lille supporters behind his goal and then incited the crowd further as Ollie Watkins moseyed forwards to take his spot-kick. At that point the referee had a word with Martínez and then, moments later, saw fit to flash another yellow card in his direction after his continued efforts to antagonise the home fans. Martínez conceded his reputation went before him, insisting his opposite number, Lucas Chevalier, was also guilty of time-wasting during the tie.

“It was my destiny to win here,” Martínez said. “I always say all in my career, I owe my teammates in those moments, even when we were watching Real Madrid last night the manager was saying we might go to penalties and in those moments I own my box.”

So, Villa are into the semi-finals of a major European tournament for the first time since 1982, where they will take on Olympiakos. Before the shootout, Unai Emery frantically gestured for calm. Who, really, was the Villa manager kidding? As Martínez strolled around his box with the ball at his feet with 118 minutes gone, successfully riling the home support for the umpteenth time, it was almost as if he was playing for penalties. He undoubtedly backs himself and his antics again paid dividends.

Until Matty Cash’s deflected strike nestled in the top corner on 87 ­minutes, via a kind deflection off a Lille defender, Villa were heading out, trailing to a fine first-time strike by Yusuf Yazici and an André header. In truth, they could have had few complaints. But Lucas Digne, who started his career at Lille, looped a high ball in from the left and the goalkeeper Chevalier, under pressure from the Villa substitute Jhon Durán, flapped at it as he went to claim the cross. Bentaleb, the former Tottenham midfielder, inadvertently collided with Chevalier amid the desperation to clear the danger and Cash let rip when the ball dropped to him outside the box.

Emiliano Martínez was booked during the first half of Aston Villa’s game at Lille and then shown a second yellow during the penalty shootout – but was correctly not sent off. To quote from the laws of football (emphasis added):

“10.3 Penalties (penalty shoot-out)

“Penalties (penalty shoot-out) are taken after the match has ended and unless otherwise stated, the relevant Laws of the Game apply. A player who has been sent off during the match is not permitted to take part; warnings and cautions issued to players and team officials during the match are not carried forward into penalties (penalty shoot-out).”

Having been booked in the shootout, Martínez then had to be careful. The law concludes with this section:

“Substitutions and sendings-off during penalties (penalty shoot-out)

  • A player, substitute, substituted player or team official may be cautioned or sent off

  • A goalkeeper who is sent off must be replaced by an eligible player

  • A player other than the goalkeeper who is unable to continue may not be replaced

  • The referee must not abandon the match if a team is reduced to fewer than seven players.”

Villa arrived off the back of arguably their biggest result of the season, an impressive victory at Arsenal, but they never got close to repeating that performance. It was 11 minutes into the second half when Cash, one of two Villa changes, had their first legitimate effort on goal, crashing a shot against the side netting after latching on to a John McGinn backheel. Cash tried his luck from distance approaching full time and a few minutes later he hit the jackpot.

Even McGinn, one of Villa’s most consistent performers, endured an off day and, aside from being Villa’s captain, there was little surprise when Durán entered in his place with 10 minutes of regular time to run. Douglas Luiz, suspended for the trip to Arsenal, sent a free-kick sailing into the gloves of Chevalier on the verge of half-time. Digne did similar. Martínez, by contrast, enjoyed every minute.

“We have time,” Leon Bailey repeatedly told his teammates, gesturing towards the big screens at either end after replacing the ineffective Moussa Diaby with 68 minutes on the clock. How Bailey’s words rang true. Cash levelled and Villa stirred. Chevalier made an extraordinary right-hand save to prevent Douglas Luiz nodding in during extra time.

That prompted the Brazilian to drag his white shirt over his face in disbelief, but the drama was only just beginning.