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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Apr 25, 2006

Forlan backs Riquelme after European exit

Villarreal striker Diego Forlan has absolved team-mate Juan Roman Riquelme of blame after their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Arsenal.

Riquelme had the chance to send the semi-final tie into extra time but he saw his last-minute penalty saved in the tense second leg at El Madrigal as the Gunners claimed a 1-0 aggregate win.

Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was hailed as the hero for his superb save as the Londoners secured their place in next month's final in Paris but Forlan backed his Argentinian team-mate.

'I didn't think it was penalty,' the former Manchester United striker said, referring to the awarding of the spot-kick after Gael Clichy was adjudged to have pushed Jose Mari in the box.

'With respect to Riquelme, I don't think anybody should blame him. He had the guts to take it and he missed - it can happen to anybody.

'I haven't spoken to him because there is nothing to say - I want to give him some space to be with his family at this time.

'He is obviously very gutted.'

Arsenal have shone in this season's Champions League with their searing attacks and free-flowing football.

But in the second leg against Villarreal, backed by a 1-0 cushion from the first leg, they adopted a somewhat reserved approach - a tactic which did not surprise Forlan.

The Uruguay international added: 'We expected Arsenal to play this way because they had the advantage from the first leg and they just played to defend it.

'We had lots of opportunities and we played well. It's difficult to understand why the ball didn't go in.

'The fans were great tonight and everything seemed to be going for us but this is football.'

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