Villarreal goalkeeper Géronimo Rulli was the hero on both sides of the penalty shoot-out as the Yellow Submarine claimed their first piece of silverware, scoring his side’s 11th kick before saving from David de Gea to sink Manchester United in May’s Europa League final in Gdańsk. Rulli’s own penalty was so convincing it is hard to believe he had never previously taken one as a professional. Should it come down to another shoot-out to claim the Super Cup at Chelsea’s expense, would Rulli step up again? “I’ve got no problem with that,” says the Argentinian custodian.
I was feeling a lot of things at the same time. I saw my team-mates weren’t missing; they were scoring. The penalties went on and on and they kept scoring. I got close but I couldn’t manage to save any. In some cases, because they were perfectly executed, but with one in particular, I could have done better. That was until the moment came when the referee said, ‘Gero, it’s your turn to shoot,’ and I said to myself: ‘One way or another, it has to go in. Try to kick it hard and high.’
And then when I saved the penalty... I felt mad at myself because I hadn’t been able to save any. There was a moment of euphoria at one point, calmness at others. The truth is that there were a lot of feelings in a very short space of time.
No, we’ve never practised them. In fact, we don’t really practise penalties with the lads. I think at that time it’s about conviction. If you are assured and you take it with your heart, with all the strength, the little strength that you have left, things usually turn out fine.
At that time, I tried to be very calm. All I could think about was about scoring. I was almost a bit unconscious. I wasn’t conscious of the fact we were in a final, that it was the tenth penalty, that it was going to be against De Gea, against Manchester United. So, there was that unconsciousness, but there was also responsibility because my team-mates had all scored. The truth is that I kicked it like it was a goal kick. I kicked it hard and tried to aim high. I know that us goalkeepers find the ones that go high difficult and that’s what I tried to do.
It all happened inside a minute, from me scoring one to saving one straight after. It was a unique feeling when I stretched out and knew I was going to save it. I knew I was going to put in a strong hand and that I was going to punch it out. I felt complete because I hadn’t failed my people, my family, my friends, my team-mates, the fans, the coach, and everybody who had ever showed an ounce of confidence in me. It was like the cherry on the cake.
I would have never imagined it in my wildest dreams. Thank God I helped this team to reach a dream and an objective.