Watkins & McGinn impress, but another Aston Villa star stole the spotlight vs Lille

Ollie Watkins and John McGinn
Ollie Watkins and John McGinn / Neal Simpson/Allstar/GettyImages

Aston Villa emerged triumphant in their Europa Conference League quarter-final first leg against Lille, securing a hard-fought 2-1 win at Villa Park. While the entire team put in a commendable effort, it was goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who truly shone, delivering a man-of-the-match performance that left fans and pundits in awe.

The Argentine goalkeeper was in inspired form, making six vital saves throughout the match, all from inside the box. His quick reflexes and ability to make himself big when it mattered most were on full display, as he repeatedly denied Lille's attackers. Advanced stats reveal that Martinez prevented an estimated 1.67 goals, highlighting his immense contribution to the team's success.

Martinez's confidence and command of his area were evident as he claimed two high balls with ease and maintained a 90% pass accuracy from his 40 touches, demonstrating his ability to contribute to Villa's build-up play.

While Martinez's heroics stole the show, forwards Ollie Watkins and John McGinn were also influential in attack. The duo combined well for Villa's opening goal in the 13th minute, with Birmingham World awarding Watkins an 8/10 match rating and McGinn an impressive 9/10. However, it was the goalkeeper's performance that ultimately ensured their efforts were not in vain.

Emiliano Martinez
Aston Villa v Lille OSC: Quarter-final First Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Martinez's heroics against Lille come as no surprise to those familiar with his career. The 31-year-old has a reputation for delivering in high-pressure situations, as evidenced by his performances for Argentina in their victorious 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup campaigns.

In the Copa America semi-final against Colombia, Martinez saved three penalties in the shootout to send his nation to the final. He once again proved his worth in the 2022 World Cup final against France, making a crucial extra-time save from Randal Kolo Muani before starring in the decisive penalty shootout.

Since joining Aston Villa from Arsenal in 2020 for £20m, Martinez has become one of the Premier League's most reliable goalkeepers. His performances have earned him recognition, including the 2023 Yashin Trophy as the world's best goalkeeper.

Despite some controversy surrounding his flamboyant celebrations and penalty shootout antics, there is no denying Martinez's impact on the pitch.

As Aston Villa prepare for the return fixture in France, they will be grateful to have a goalkeeper of Martinez's calibre between the posts. His big-game experience and shot-stopping ability could prove the difference as they look to build on their 2-1 first-leg advantage and progress to the Europa Conference League semi-finals.

With Martinez in top form and the team rallying around him, Aston Villa fans have every reason to be optimistic about their chances of success in this European campaign.