As Arsenal sealed a massive win against Valencia in the semi-finals of the Europa League, it sent a chill of nostalgia down the spines of some fans
With a comfortable 3-1 lead heading into the second-leg in Spain next week, Arsenal are in the driving seat for to make their first European final in 13 years, and the last time they achieved it they also did it at the expense of beating Spanish opposition.
Arsenal vs Villarreal, 2006
Arsenal’s run to the 2006 Champions League final remains one of the most extraordinary feats the club have managed this century, and it almost didn’t happen had it not been for a few key moments in their semi-final games against Villarreal.
After knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus already in the competition, the Gunners were drawn in the semi-finals with one of the surprise teams of the tournament, Villarreal, who had made their way to the final-four after topping a group ahead of Manchester United and making it through the round of 16 and quarter-finals on away goals.
The Gunners went into the game against Villarreal the clear favourites, and in the first-leg at home at Highbury Arsene Wenger’s side were able to come with a narrow 1-0 win thanks to a rare goal from defender Kolo Toure.
The second-leg in Spain, though, was a game that Villarreal really should have come away the victors of. The Yellow Submarine dominated the entire match, with Diego Forlan and Juan Riquelme playing at their brilliant best in a game Arsenal never found their footing in.
The hosts were even awarded a penalty in the 89th minute when Jose Mari was brought down softly in the area by Gael Clichy, resulting in a golden chance for Villarreal to send the game to extra-time. But Jens Lehman came up big and denied Riquelme, sending Arsenal to their first Champions League final.
The Gunners might still have scars from their semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid last year, but fans will remember that the club have done the business in Spain before and that history can repeat itself in times like this.
Arsenal fans, can the Gunners repeat their success against Villarreal and progress against Valencia? Let us know!
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