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Lille president: Martinez's shootout antics not befitting of high-level athlete

Catherine Steenkeste / Getty Images Sport / Getty

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Lille president Olivier Letang said Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez's attitude was not befitting a player of his calibre after the Argentina international earned his club a place in the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

Martinez saved penalties from Nabil Bentaleb and Lille captain Benjamin Andre as Villa won the shootout 4-3 following a 3-3 draw over the two legs.

The Villa stopper received a hostile reception throughout from Lille fans who had not forgotten his provocative celebrations after Argentina beat France on penalties in the 2022 World Cup final.

He again riled supporters on Thursday by resorting to his trademark dark arts, shushing the crowd during the shootout and trying to unsettle kick-takers.

"I don't want to take up time talking about this lad who has an attitude that isn't that of a very high level athlete," said Letang.

"In victory or defeat, you have to stay calm and gracious, so I prefer to focus on ourselves and that we bring out the positive aspects."

After losing the first leg 2-1 last week, Lille looked on course for a first major European semi-final after goals from Yusuf Yazici and Andre in northern France.

But Matty Cash's late goal forced extra time before the tie went to a shootout.

Jonathan David, one of the three Lille players to convert their spot-kicks, said he tried to pay no notice to Martinez's antics.

"Martinez likes to distract, like we saw with the first penalty, where he runs to go get the ball," said the Canada forward.

"Normally, he should just go to his goal. For him it's a tactical game. For me, it's like a penalty I take in the game. I had my mind made up and I stayed focused on that."

There was a confusing moment when Martinez, who was booked in the first half, was shown a yellow card midway throughout the shootout.

Villa coach Unai Emery said he feared Martinez was going to be sent off, but a rule change a few seasons ago means yellow cards do not carry over into a penalty shootout.

"Yesterday you (the media) were all asking me about the reception he will get here in France and you could see it throughout the game," said Emery.

"He is very experienced and he was trying to control his emotions but the supporters were pushing him. I believe in him and he is mature but with personality. He is always under his own control."

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