'The penalty is not a penalty!" - Emery rubbishes Arsenal spot kick in 'deserved' Villarreal victory

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Villarreal manager Unai Emery hailed his side's efforts in their Europa League semi-final first leg victory over Arsenal on Thursday, but bemoaned the decision to award a spot kick to the Gunners for a crucial away goal.

The Yellow Submarine ran out 2-1 victors on home turf at El Madrigal to take the advantage into next week's reverse fixture at the Emirates Stadium, thanks to first-half goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol.

Nicolas Pepe was able to convert a second-half penalty with just over a quarter-hour left on the clock after Bukayo Saka was deemed to have been felled by Manu Trigueros inside the penalty area, in a call that the coach was quick to rubbish after the game.

What did Emery say?

"The penalty is not a penalty," the former Gunners boss told BT Sport, in reference to the incident where Saka went down after apparently tripping over Trigueros' ankle. "We deserved this victory."

Emery added in his post-game press conference that the call was a "very important refereeing error and also, with VAR, you can see it."

The Spaniard - who led Sevilla to a hat-trick of Europa League triumphs during his previous spell in La Liga - added that he will expect more of the same from his side when he makes his return to north London for the second leg next week, even though they failed to add to their first-half haul at home.

"We had chances to score the third goal and that was our plan," he added to BT Sport. "We will play there with the same plan, to control and show our personality.

"We developed a plan [today] to take the victory and achieved it. It’s a victory, and it allows us to continue in the second leg. We have to go there to score a goal."

The bigger picture

Pepe's late response is enough to likely leave Arsenal - who spent a chunk of the second half at a man disadvantage following Dani Ceballos' second yellow card - hopeful that they can turn the tide in their favour on home soil.

The bonus of an away goal means that they need score only once at the Emirates Stadium in a week's time to secure progression to the final in Gdansk - providing that they keep Villarreal at bay for the duration of the game.

Emery will have no room for sentimentality when he returns to the side who duly dismissed him a handful of months after he took them to a Europa League final - and he will know that victory would boost his own side's fledgling hopes for European action at the expense of his old club next term.

Villarreal currently lie in seventh in La Liga, which would qualify them for the newly created Europa Conference League, while Arsenal look poised to miss out on European football entirely next season unless they can win the Europa League and seal a Champions League berth.

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