After the Champions League semi-finalists were decided Wednesday night, it was time for the Europa League to take centre stage.
Arsene wenger’s Arsenal avoided what looked to be a potential shock. The Gunners trailed 2-0 at one point to Russian side CSKA Moscow. Arsenal were in a comfortable position going into the game with a 4-1 aggregate lead but when the Russians took a two goal lead nerves will have certainly set in motion. One more goal for CSKA would have seen them in all sorts of trouble. As it happens though, Arsenal avoided any scenario, pulling it back from 2-0 to eventually draw 2-2.
It was the home side that had the advantage at half time. Fedor Chalov providing the finish. Slack defending allowed the forward a tap in. There were a few half chances for either side in the first 45 but it ended with CSKA 1-0 up.
Soon after the break CSKA had notched again. It was 2-0. A long-range effort left Cech scrambling and his save was far from convincing, getting away from the keeper. Right wing-back Kirill Nababkin was on hand to grab Moscow’s second. Wenger’s side showed their resilience though and responded positively. In-form man Danny Welbeck started a silky move and finished it. The massive away goal with 15 minutes left, knocked the stuffing out of the Russians. It then fell upon Welshman Aaron Ramsey to confirm Arsenal’s semi-final spot in added time.
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) April 12, 2018
Fear for the favourites
Well fancied favourites Atletico Madrid were far from their best in a performance that had Spanish fans biting their fingernails due to the lack of goals on the night. Madrid travelled to Portugal in possession of a 2-0 lead, but it proved to only just be enough.
It was a dominant display by the home side in the first half and they led at the break deservedly. Sporting Lisbon’s frontman Fredy Montero provided the goal to set the tie up nicely. Goalkeeper Jan Oblak (one of the most highly rated in Europe) will not want to see this one again anytime soon. Bruno Fernandes’ cross passed him too easily and Montero was able to convert with his head at the back post. The tie may well have been levelled just before the whistle for a break. Former Fulham man Bryan Ruiz tested Oblak’s resolve, with a long-range effort. Atletico’s number one was equal to it on this occasion.
The second half didn’t prove to be too entertaining and it ended as it started, with Lisbon 1-0 up. Frenchman Antoine Griezmann had by far the best opportunity to conclude the tie late on but he failed. The striker found himself through on goal with less than ten minutes left. With the feint to suggest he was going to go one side, Griezmann decided to direct down the middle of the goal. It allowed keeper Rui Patricio to make the save and keep his side’s hopes alive. Even though he kept them in the tie, Diego Simeone’s men saw the game out comfortably enough. More major news that will concern the Argentinian will be the loss of Diego Costa. The striker was replaced by Fernando Torres early in the second half.
A thriller in France
French side Marseille played host To RB Leipzig. The German side were hoping to cap their debut European campaign by reaching at least the semi-final. Those hopes were dashed in this game. The two sides played out a classic, in which Marseille were victors 5-2.
Just two minutes in Marseille heads could easily have dropped when Bruma scored. A goal down, 2-0 on aggregate. Who could blame them? They most certainly did not drop though. Nine minutes in they led. The perfect response. The aggregate score was all of a sudden level but the emphasis was definitely with the home side… and their crowd. Superb. An own goal, followed by Bouna Sarr goal had Marseille pumped up. Just under half an hour later it got even better Florian Thauvin added another. It was 3-1!
Another blow was dealt with the French side in the second half. A quality run and back heel from Liverpool bound Naby Kieta set up teammate Jean-Kevin Augustin. The advantage was now back with Leipzig. The tie was swinging from one way to another and it was soon swinging back to Marseille, Dimitri Payet who set up Thauvin in the first half scored this time. Ex Newcastle man Thauvin turned provider with a dazzling run. Late in the game, Leipzig pushed for the vital goal that would have put them through but after overextending in an attack, they were found wanting at the back. The goalkeeper was sent forward in a last-gasp attempt, it was a nightmare. Marseille quickly countered, and the Hiroki Sakai had a free effort at an open goal. The result was inevitable, along with who would be in the semi-final.
Against the odds
Lazio were left stunned when Salzburg took it to them and ended their hopes of European glory. The Austrian side will have been brimming with confidence after their superb victory over Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16. This though may feel even sweeter.
At halftime, Lazio’s 4-2 advantage was still intact. It wasn’t exactly put under massive pressure either in fairness. Lazio arguably had the better chances. Midfield Milinkovic-Savic picked out Italian striker Ciro Immobile with an over the top pass. He decided to try a first-time effort which was perhaps the wrong decision. Just three minutes later Immobile forced Alexander Walke into a save but he dealt with it rather easily.
The second half was in major contrast to the first, with five goals coming. It was Lazio who initially took the lead through Immobile who threatened with a couple of chances on the stroke of halftime. Unfortunately, for Lazio, their lead lasted a mere 84 seconds. At the time it still looked as if Lazio were massive favourites to qualify. A crazy four-minute period changed all of that. The home side stunned their Italians visitors. With 72 minutes on the clock it was 1 -1, it certainly had a different look 76 minutes in. Salzburg were in dreamland, they scored three quickfire goals. Unbelievable. Lazio simply didn’t know what hit them and they were unable to provide the answer to their problems. Salzburg’s four-minute flurry saw them into an unlikely European semi-final.
— FC Red Bull Salzburg (@RedBullSalzburg) April 12, 2018
Quarter-final round-up in full:
CSKA Moscow 2-2 Arsenal
Sporting Lisbon 1-0 Atletico Madrid
Salzburg 4-1 Lazio
Marseille 5-2 RB Leipzig
With the semi-final line-up complete, who do you think will lift the trophy?