Troll God Emi Martínez Shows Once Again Why He Is The Penalty Shootout King

Emi Martínez is a goalkeeper. As such, he could never qualify as the best soccer player in the world. Hell, Martínez isn’t even the best keeper in the sport if we’re talking all-around skill set. Nevertheless, I can’t think of a single player in all of soccer who enjoys as towering a supremacy in one particular aspect of the game as Martínez has in penalties.

The Aston Villa keeper was able to summon his inner penalty demon in his team’s Europa Conference League quarterfinal tie against Lille on Thursday, to typically decisive effect. Villa came to France on Thursday looking to protect the 2-1 advantage it had earned at home in the first leg the week prior. Lille played a great game, scoring a tie-leveling goal in the 15th minute and putting the go-ahead goal past Martínez in the 67th. Villa kept fighting, though, and received a late lifeline when Matty Cash scored in the 87th minute, equalizing the aggregate score. After an uneventful extra time, the match went to penalties, where Martínez loomed.

Martínez’s reputation in penalty shootouts always precedes him, and this was especially the case against Lille. The French fans in attendance had booed and shouted insults at the Villa keeper all match, assuredly due to their sour memories of how Martínez and his trademark shootout shithousery helped Argentina beat France in the World Cup final in 2022. (Let’s not forget that Martínez has said that his literally cocky celebration after being awarded the Golden Glove after that final was dedicated to his haters amongst the France fans.) If the locals hoped this reception would rattle the infamous rattler, they would quickly realize that they were mistaken.

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Martínez’s first victim was Nabil Bentaleb, Lille’s first shooter. As Bentaleb strode up from the halfway line to the penalty box, Martínez did one of his tried and true pest moves by running to the ball before Bentaleb could get to it, picking it up, and then throwing it away, just to unsettle the Algerian’s routine. Once he was finally ready, Bentaleb took his spot kick, Martínez saved it, and Bentaleb punted the rebound into the stands in frustration. Martínez coolly turned to the crowd and put his finger to his lips, inciting a renewed wave of boos.

There was some confusion next. While Ollie Watkins was getting ready to take his kick, the referee showed Martínez a yellow card. Presumably the ref thought Martínez was wasting too much time winding up the crowd, though the keeper later explained that he was just asking the ball boy to get him a ball that he could give to Watkins, who was waiting for one. The issue was that Martínez had already been shown a yellow in the match’s 39th minute. Many thought this second yellow in the shootout would mean an expulsion for the keeper, though the rules actually stipulate that cards during regulation time are wiped out once a shootout starts. So Martínez was clear to continue doing what he does best.

Watkins eventually did get a ball, and converted his penalty. That started a run of successful kicks: Jonathan David scored for Lille, Cash scored for Villa, Angel Gomes scored for Lille. The next failed attempt came from Villa’s Leon Bailey. Rémy Cabella stepped up next, beat Martínez, and brought Lille level in the shootout. Douglas Luiz restored Villa’s advantage, and Benjamin André, who’d scored Lille’s second goal earlier in the match, had on his foot the last kick to decide whether Villa would win or the shootout would go to sudden death. Without relying on any special hijinks, Martínez hopped around on his line, dove to his left as André struck the ball, and saved the shot, sending Villa to the semis. He celebrated with yet another of his trademarks, a little jig of happiness as his teammates mobbed him. The scene inspired the home fans to send another cascade of boos his way, which, for the victorious keeper, must’ve sounded like heaven.

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The French were predictably rankled. “Oh, it’s terrible!” the commentator on the French broadcast said, again calling back to the World Cup. “It’s terrible to see that scene again, that dance by Emiliano Martinez. The cold shower is horrible, terrible and monumental for Lille.” Lille’s club president, Olivier Létang, was also miffed. When asked about Martínez after the game, Létang replied “I don’t want to waste time talking about this boy, who doesn’t have the attitude of a high-level sportsman because in defeat, as in victory, you have to stay calm and elegant.”

Well, even if Martínez lacks the attitude of a high-level sportsman according to Létang, he sure has the results of one. Going back to the 2020 Community Shield—his last appearance for Arsenal, the club he spent a decade with—Martínez has played in five penalty shootouts for club and country. His teams have won all five, and he’s saved a staggering 10 of the 24 penalties he faced in those shootouts. His highlights are as impressive as they are hilarious:

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Nobody is on Martínez’s level when it comes to waging psychological warfare on penalties. The man is an asshole, and he is great, and it’s amazing. I hope every Villa tie from here on out goes to penalties so we get to see even more.

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