Barcelona and Lyon. Leipzig and Rangers. All the semifinalists
While the first games in the Europa League quarterfinals were boring, the return matches were exciting and dramatic. Three of the first four games ended with the score 1-1. Only Braga managed to beat Rangers 1-0 at home, which also doesn’t speak of the soccer extravaganza. The return matches were more fiery.
Atalanta (Italy) v Leipzig (Germany) – 0-2
The draw in the first meeting in Germany seemed to give more hope for Atalanta, but both teams practiced such open and unpredictable soccer that it was impossible to call a favorite. In terms of content the first half of the game turned out equal. The Italians had more possession, while the Germans were a bit more concrete in the end zone – they led 8:7 in shots and 4:2 in shots. But Nkunku made the biggest difference, giving Leipzig the lead in the 18th minute.
At the beginning of the second half Atalanta could have equalized after Malinowski’s free kick hit Olmo. And the referee could have awarded a penalty after watching the BAR. However, he took an unexpected decision, seeing no reason for a penalty. This episode somewhat threw Atalanta off their game, they were noticeably nervous, grabbed yellow cards and tried to increase the pressure. And it was successful at times. But there was risk involved; Leipzig made excellent use of the space they were given.
At the end of the game Atalanta took a risky penalty – Musso brought down Nkunka in his penalty box, and Christopher himself scored by securing the double. Atalanta had no chance of escape, but the final was a heated encounter. After 90 minutes, the referee showed four yellow cards – two for the home team and two for the away team. But in total, he cautioned ten players. And all of them in the second half. As for Alexey Miranchuk, he came on the field in the 70th minute instead of Jérémy Bog and had no useful features.
Leipzig’s Domenico Tedesco came next, making the best of his chances. In fact, in the second half, Atalanta have already increased their control of the ball – up to 57 percent. They began to shoot even more frequently – eight shots in the half compared to four, but only one on target compared to three for the Bulls.
Rangers (Scotland) v Braga (Portugal), 3-1
Extra time was required only in Scotland, where Rangers tried to get back into the game after a 0-1 loss. It should be said that Tavernier more than did in the first half. First, he scored on the second minute, and then converted the spot-kick before the break. At the same time, Braga were reduced after Tormena was sent off.
It seemed that the way to the semi-finals was open for the Scots. Especially with the crazy statistics and before the suspension. 13-1 on shots for the Rangers, with 66 percent of the ball possession. But the Portuguese managed to score in the penalty box with Carmo’s effort in the 83rd minute. By that time, the Rangers had 23 shots on goal, with two shots on frame. But Braga took six attempts to score the crucial goal and put the game into extra time.
There, though, the Portuguese were not strong enough. “The Rangers piled on and Rufe scored in the 101st minute. In addition, Braga avoided another miracle thanks to Medeiros who got into such an argument with the referee that he received two yellow cards in a row. With a deficit of two players, there was certainly no way for the Portuguese to escape. So Rangers would face Leipzig in the semifinals.
Lyon (France) v West Ham (England) – 0-3
The French blew the return game. They got a 1-1 draw in the away game, although they were on the power play the whole second half. And now West Ham have shown the difference in capabilities of the teams with equal squads. And after all, Lyon had a chance to direct the game in a different way. Early in the game, Toco Ecambee hit the bar of Areola’s goal. If the French scored first, everything could have been different. As in the case of the missed penalty for Atalanta.
A robust start to the half from Lyon went in the sand, with no goals. And closer to halftime, the French team’s long-standing problem – loss of concentration – became apparent. “West Ham needed only a couple of episodes for Dawson and Rice to score, making Lyon’s save almost unrealistic. Although the French had more possession of the ball before halftime – more than 61 percent of the time. And in terms of shots, there was a 5-5 tie, but the Londoners had three shots on target and Lyon had one.
Immediately after the break, the Hammers consolidated their lead with Bowen netting their third goal. And it was a matter of technique to keep the lead. Lyon shot 67.5 percent from the field, 17 shots against ten, but only three of those were on target against West Ham’s six. David Moyes’ side seem to be serious about the Europa League, contrary to the popular belief that English clubs don’t have much respect for it. It’s a chance to qualify for the Champions League, after all. And West Ham are very realistic. They will be facing Eintracht in the semi-finals.
Barcelona (Spain) – Eintracht (Germany) – 2:3
A draw in Germany seemed like just postponing the inevitable Barcelona semifinal for later. But the Catalans underestimated Eintracht. Everything went wrong for Xavi’s team from the very first minutes when Erik Garcia converted a penalty awarded to Kostić. For some reason, Barcelona failed to pull themselves together. The Catalans offered only harmless possession of 76 percent in the first half. And only two shots on goal with one shot on goal.
Eintracht, on the other hand, were doing fine even without the ball, counterattacking in a classy and sharp manner. Nine shots in the first half with five on goal. “Barcelona were completely outplayed, and closer to halftime Borre scored Eintracht’s second goal. It should be noted that after the break, despite a series of substitutions, Xavi’s charges could not shake off for a long time. Kostic sealed his brace with a double and the scoreline at Camp Nou showed 0-3. Hardly anyone could have expected such a result.
Surprisingly, the field remained unchanged until the very last minutes. “Barcelona were inferior in sharpness to Eintracht, who, however, frightened themselves into a tight squeeze just before the final whistle. This created drama, bringing back the intrigue even. By the 88th minute, the teams had only four yellow cards apiece, and Barcelona had only five shots on goal for Trapp.
By the final whistle, which sounded in the 100th minute, the Catalans had taken five more shots, scored two goals thanks to the efforts of Busquets and Depay from the penalty spot, and the referee showed seven more yellow cards, including two for Ndika, who ended the match early. Crazy ending. But immediately after the penalty the referee blew the final whistle, so there was no chance for Barcelona to save. We just needed to play the whole game, not 12 minutes.
Conference League was also fun, with the semifinalists also revealed. Some might even say its semifinals were more impressive than the ones in UEFA Champions League. Judge for yourself. “Roma took revenge on Norway’s Bude Glimt and responded to their 1-2 defeat in the first leg with a 4-0 drubbing in the second. With a hat trick by Zagnolo and a quick goal by Abraham. In the semifinals, the Romans will play Leicester who failed to beat PSV at home (0-0) but managed to do it away 2-1. And by the 77th minute it was still losing 0-1.
Marseille got to the semifinals without any problems: it defeated PAOK at home (2-1) and then did it away (1-0). In both cases, Payet scored the winning goals. And the rival of the French will be Feyenoord, who again had fun with Slavia. The first game in Rotterdam ended 3-3, and in Prague the opponents quickly exchanged goals. It was only in the second half that Feyenoord got the upper hand, scoring twice more – 3-1 on aggregate.