Unai Emery urges Villa to forget European exit and book Champions League place – The Irish News

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has urged his side to finish the season by booking Champions League football after their European dream ended in a Greek tragedy at Olympiacos.

Villa were eyeing a first European final since 1982 but, with the ancient Acropolis in the backdrop of the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, their hopes are now in ruins after a 6-2 aggregate defeat.

They travelled to Athens needing a Herculean effort to overturn a 4-2 deficit from the first leg, but limped to a 2-0 defeat on the night, with last week’s hat-trick hero Ayoub El Kaabi scoring the goals which sent the Greek side through to their first-ever European final.

Emery will see this as a huge missed opportunity to win a fifth European trophy in a tournament they were favourites for.

They will hope not be back in this third-tier competition any time soon as they can seal Champions League qualification at the weekend if they beat Liverpool on Monday or Spurs lose to Burnley on Saturday.

“It’s a process, we have got to the semi-final for the first time,” Emery, whose side have already guaranteed Europa League qualification next season, said.

Ollie Watkins was dejected after the European exit _
Ollie Watkins was dejected after the European exit _ (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“We have to accept it’s not enough, but it is a process. The first objective at the beginning of the season was to try compete in Europe again, through the Premier League.

“We are going to play next year in the Europa League, we’re improving and we have the opportunity to get the fourth position, which is amazing motivation.

“We have to be disappointed a little bit, and frustrated a little bit and we have to be quick to react.

“We have to try to finish the season and for it to be very amazing [if they qualify for the Champions League].”

Villa were left with too much work to do after last week’s first-leg loss at Villa Park.

El Kaabi put Olympiacos ahead in the 10th minute and then killed it once and for all with his fifth goal of the tie.

Emery added: “They [Olympiacos] deserve to be in the final. We lost it in the first 90 minutes at home and we were not competitive.

“They deserved to win, the first leg we played in Birmingham we lost the first opportunity to be with more chance here in the second leg.

“I was comfortable in the first half, we created chances, we didn’t concede a lot of chances, even though they scored. They were clinical more than us, even though we had chances we didn’t score.

“Second half progressively we weren’t feeling less comfortable and the second goal more or less finished the match.”

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