Villarreal, Spain (Sports Network) – Jens Lehmann proved why he was selected as Germany’s goalkeeper for the World Cup by blocking a late Villarreal penalty shot to ensure a scoreless draw and Arsenal a spot in the Champions League final match.
Lehmann blocked Juan Roman Riquelme’s penalty kick in the 90th minute to preserve Arsenal’s narrow one -goal aggregate Tuesday at El Madrigal. Riquelme’s shot towards the net’s left post wasn’t enough to get past a diving Lehmann.
The blocked penalty shot put an end to a day filled with near goals for Villarreal, which had an offense that dominated throughout the 90 minutes.
Tuesday’s results mark the first time Arsenal had made it to the tournament’s final match. The scoreless draw added to an Arsenal clean sheet spanning 919 minutes.
Arsene Wenger’s club is the second consecutive Premiership team to make it into the Champions League final match. Arsenal will have to wait until the results of Wednesday’s Barcelona-AC Milan match to find out its opponent in the finals.
Wenger’s lineup looked slightly different at the start of Tuesday’s game. Jose Antonio Reyes returned after serving a one-match suspension, and Sol Campbell made the start after suffering a broken nose in his last game against Portsmouth in league play.
For Villarreal, coach Manuel Pellegrini kept Mariano Barbosa and added Juan Manuel Pena and Josico to the second-leg starting lineup.
With the familiar bright yellow jerseys set to a wall of fans draped in the same color, Villarreal appeared to take quick control of the match.
The “yellow submarine” offense managed its first attempt on the Arsenal defense with a Guillermo Franco shot that was sent high and wide of the net.
The team continued to pressure the Arsenal defense throughout the first few minutes of the half.
In the ninth minute, Arsenal was forced to make a quick substitution, as Mathieu Flamini was forced out of the match with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Gael Clichy came on for the injured forward after having not played since November due to a broken foot.
Though Arsenal would also create some pressure in the first half, Villarreal maintained control. Overall, the home side had 12 total shots compared to Arsenal’s two. Five of the 12 shots were on goal, with the Arsenal offense only able to create one attempt on goal.
In the second half, with the opportunity to advance quickly slipping away, Villarreal nearly took the lead with a goal that was flagged for offside. Franco drilled a shot to the top right corner that was out of reach of a diving Lehmann. But before anyone could celebrate, the lineman signaled for offside.
The club had its best attempt on the penalty kick, which was the result of a Clichy foul on Villarreal’s Jose Maria in the 90th minute. Following the blocked shot, Riquelme took one last attempt deep into extra time that was blocked to nearly end the club’s hopes to advance.
Arsenal will travel to Paris, France for the Champions League final May 17.