The youngster tried hard to recover from injury in time for the Europa League final but couldn’t make the matchday squad as Villarreal made history in Poland
Villarreal are the Europa League champions as the Spanish club defeated Manchester United 11-10 on penalties after fulltime scores stood at 1-1 in the final played inside the Polsat Plus Arena, Gdansk on Wednesday evening.
Samuel Chukwueze missed the game due to injury, despite joining in some of Villarreal’s training sessions days before the match.
One of the Yellow Submarines’ most influential players in the competition this term, Chukwueze had contributed one goal and five assists before he picked up the injury in his side’s semifinal clash against Arsenal.
And he was aiming to be only the second Nigerian international – after Alex Iwobi in 2019 – to score in the Europa League final.
But Villarreal handled Chukwueze’s absence well enough in the early stages and took the lead through Gerard Moreno after only half an hour of football, as the Spanish forward steered home a Dani Parejo free-kick from close range.
But United grew into the game steadily, and Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani rewarded the Red Devils’ industry when he smashed home the equaliser from close range ten minutes into the second half.
That Cavani strike later sent the Europa League final to extra time, but Villarreal and Manchester United could not be separated after extra time.
In the subsequent penalty shootout, both teams scored their first ten spot-kicks only for David De Gea to have his penalty saved after Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli had converted his.
Villarreal thus claimed their first major European trophy in history while denying United the chance to win their second Europa League title.
With the Yellow Submarines triumph, Chukwueze becomes the sixth Nigerian to win Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Kanu Nwankwo, Taribo West, Chidi Odiah, John Mikel Obi, and Victor Moses are the other Nigerians to have previously lifted the prestigious trophy.