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Martinez shines in shootout again as Villa reach Conference League semis

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Aston Villa kept their bid for a first European trophy in over 40 years alive Thursday after beating Lille 4-3 on penalties following Matty Cash's late goal that forced extra time.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved from Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Andre in the shootout to send Villa through after being whistled loudly by a crowd irked by his celebrations after his starring role in Argentina's 2022 World Cup final win over France.

There was a strange moment during the shootout when he was shown a second yellow card for more antics, but rules dictate that any bookings are reset before penalties commence.

Unai Emery's side won the first leg 2-1 last week, but Lille drew level in the tie when Yusuf Yazici steered home 15 minutes into the return clash in northern France.

Lille captain Andre glanced in a corner midway through the second half to leave the Ligue 1 club heading towards their first major European semi-final, but a defensive mishap in the closing minutes proved costly.

Cash hammered the ball home to bring Villa even at 3-3 on aggregate with three minutes left after Lille goalkeeper Lucas Chevalier spilled a looping cross following a collision with team-mate Bentaleb.

Chevalier redeemed himself with a sensational save from Douglas Luiz in extra time, reacting sharply to scoop the Brazilian's header over the crossbar after parrying a powerful shot from Leon Bailey.

But Martinez had the final say in the shootout after Chevalier saved Bailey's attempt, with Villa moving on to face Olympiakos or Fenerbahce in the last four.

Last season's runners-up Fiorentina sealed a return to the semi-finals with a 2-0 win over 10-man Viktoria Plzen after extra time.

Cadu was sent off in the second half for a foul on the edge of the Plzen box and Fiorentina made the extra man count when Nico Gonzalez struck in the 92nd minute.

Skipper Cristiano Biraghi added a second on 108 minutes as the Italians progressed 2-0 on aggregate.

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