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Villarreal rue Riquelme's penalty miss

What if Juan Roman Riquelme had converted his 88th-minute penalty kick against Arsenal in the Champions League semifinal second leg on Tuesday?

india Updated: Apr 26, 2006 15:58 IST

Villarreal are contemplating what might have been.

What if Juan Roman Riquelme had converted his 88th-minute penalty kick against Arsenal in the Champions League semifinal second leg on Tuesday?

It almost certainly would have taken the match at El Madrigal Stadium into extra time.

The small-town team from eastern Spain may then have claimed a place in the final against FC Barcelona or AC Milan at the Stade de France in Paris on May 17.

Instead, the Argentina playmaker, who had been a key figure in Villarreal's surprisingly successful competition debut, had his shot blocked by diving goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, and Arsenal held on to a 0-0 draw to reach their first Champions League final.

"When Roman missed, it was the worst moment of my life. Riquelme is very sad but he's got to lift himself for our four very important remaining league games and we have to finish an unrepeatable season," Villarreal president Fernando Roig told Wednesday's edition of Daily Sport.

Roig, who received a call from Crown Prince Felipe offering his commiseration after the game, said his side had deserved better fortune.

"Soccer is cruel. We were all over Arsenal. They didn't even have a shot at goal," Roig said.

"I'm very proud of my team because we have demonstrated to Europe what we can do." Villarreal captain Quique Alvarez said his teammates were annoyed because they had wasted a unique opportunity.

"We showed we deserved to be there but, because of our lack of accuracy, we were left without the big final. Our heads are high although we're inconsolable," Alvarez said.

Villarreal, backed by a noisy crowd of 23,000 in the team's color of yellow, made a good effort to overcome Kolo Toure's winning goal from last week's first leg in London, but spurned several other clear chances.

"Understandably, the players are shattered," Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said. "I'm very proud of my players, who were very superior to a great team."

Villarreal, who have played just seven seasons in the Spanish first division, have burst onto the European scene over the last three. They reached the UEFA Cup semifinals two years ago and the quarterfinals last year.

Spain's press on Wednesday saluted the team's achievement and lamented their misfortune.

"Goodbye, cruel football" ran the headline in sports Daily Marca, while national El Pais said: "Villarreal bid farewell with greatness."