UEFA Europa League Review-  Thursday 29th March 2012



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Atletico Madrid take a 2-1 lead into their second leg in Germany next weekend after overcoming Hannover with a late goal 


Atletico Madrid needed a last-gasp goal from Eduardo Salvio to beat a resilient Hannover side 2-1 at the Vicente Calderon in this Europa League quarter-final encounter.

Radamel Falcao put the Spanish side ahead early on with a free header, Mame Biram Diouf grabbed an equaliser before half-time, but Salvio nicked the victory for the hosts in the closing moments. The home side started the match in complete control, dominating possession and territory. This pressure did not take long to show. Just nine minutes into the game, Gabi lofted a free-kick in from the centre of pitch, and Falcao was free in the box to glance a header past Ron-Robert Zieler, his seventh goal in Europe this season. Hannover were looking despondent, and finding it hard to even venture into their opposition’s half. Indeed, Atletico nearly went further ahead with another free-kick from Gabi. The ball was curled into the box from the right, yet Mario Suarez headed onto the roof of the net. Soon after, Adrian Lopez had some space on the right of the box, but he fired the ball wide of the far post.

Los Rojiblancos were made to pay for not taking their chances. Completely against the run of play, Diouf brought his side level. Lars Stindl sent in a pinpoint cross from the right, and Diouf slid in to poke the ball into the net with his left foot, for a precious away goal. Diego Simeone’s team were beginning to look frustrated and Die Roten were sensing a historic victory in Madrid. Diouf so nearly put the visitors in front on the night after Didier Ya Konan whipped in an impressive cross, and Diouf connected well, bringing a crucial reaction save from Chelsea loanee Thibaut Courtois. The match looked to be heading for a draw but Salvio had other ideas as with minutes left, he held off a challenge and curled a delightful shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal. Then in stoppage time Diego nearly made it three with his volley being saved well by Zieler. With both teams labouring in their respective domestic leagues in eighth place, winning this competition could be their only way into Europe next season. This tie remains in the balance, it is all to play for in the return leg at Hannover next week. 

AZ Alkmaar produced a stirring late rally to beat Valencia 2-1 and increase the pressure on Los Che coach Unai Emery in their Europa League quarter-final first-leg at the AFAS Stadion.

Brett Holman, who has signed a pre-contract agreement to join Aston Villa in the summer, opened the scoring against the run of play from a corner, but the hosts were pegged back early in the second half through a Mehmet Topal header. Maarten Martens struck the winner late in the game, leaving the Spanish side needing a victory at the Mestalla to make the semi-finals. Adil Rami's suspension forced Valencia boss Unai Emery to a defensive reshuffle, with Ricardo Costa starting in central defence alongside Angel Dealbert, while Diego Alves was preferred in goal to Vicente Guaita. The home side started the brighter of the two teams and had a claim for a penalty turned down in the sixth minute, when Dealbert appeared to hold back Jozy Altidore as the American striker looked to get on the end of Brett Holman's cross although English referee Martin Atkinson was unimpressed.

While the Eredivisie leaders struggled to keep possession for most of the opening 45, they staged a smash and grab in the dying seconds of the first half as poor marking from the visitors allowed Australian international Holman to volley a neat finish from a Martens corner. Valencia hit back immediately after the restart, though, as a looping cross from Ricardo Costa was headed past the outstretched arms of Alvarado by Topal. The Dutch side came more and more into the game as an attacking force in the closing stages and eventually regained the lead as Holman's low cross in to the area was sidefooted past Alves by Martens to bring the score to 2-1. AZ came close to extending their lead further soon after, but Adam Maher's piledriver went inches wide of the goal as Valencia saw off the final minutes to leave themselves needing a victory at the Mestalla next Thursday to progress.

Sporting Lisbon took an important step towards reaching the Europa League semi-finals after defeating Metalist Kharkiv 2-1 in the first leg at the Estadio de Alvalade, but may be made to rue the concession of a late away goal.

The game started off slowly, with neither side able to impose their will on the game, as the first sign of danger came only in the 38th minute, when Daniel Carrico tried his luck from distance, but his shot went straight into the hands of Olexandr Goryainov. After such a poor first half from both sides, Sporting came out strongly from the interval and broke the deadlock after just six minutes. Diego Capel and Emiliano Insua exchanged passes on the left flank before the Spanish winger squared for Marat Izmailov to slide home. Sporting were now in the driving seat and doubled their lead in the 64th minute, when former Liverpool left-back Insua sent home a low free-kick targeted at the right corner of Goryainov's goal.

The Ukrainian side reduced the deficit in injury time as Patricio brought down Marko Devic inside the area after stopping Marlos' initial shot with a flying save. Cleiton Xavier made no mistake from the spot and sent the Portuguese keeper the wrong way. The result leaves the tie wide open for the return leg in Ukraine on April 5. The Leoes have reasons to celebrate, however, as they have equalled Barcelona's record for the highest number of consecutive continental victories after securing their seventh Europa League success at the Estadio de Alvalade in 2011-12.


Llorente was at it again for Bilbao scoring twice to help his side come from behind to defeat Schalke ruthlessly away from home 

Late goals from Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain earned Athletic Bilbao a thrilling 4-2 win over FC Schalke in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final match at Veltins-Arena.

Braces from Fernando Llorente and Raul saw the game level, before the Basque duo finished calmly to give the visitors a significant victory in the final 10 minutes. After back and forth play with plenty of creativity to start the contest, the breakthrough arrived after 20 minutes. Markel Susaeta received a low ball towards the right corner, beating a diving Christian Fuchs, before sending in a diagonal pass into the box. Timo Hildebrand could not grab the ball to his chest, fumbling the effort just a few yards out, and Llorente managed to knock home awkwardly from close range after several players went after the loose ball.

But the hosts managed to respond in the 22nd minute when Jefferson Farfan controlled the ball in the box while shielding off a defender, before playing Atsuto Uchida towards the bye-line. The young Japanese defender crossed to the front post, where Raul got a faint touch to beat Gorka Iraizoz and level the match. In the second half, Kyriakos Papadopoulos appeared to have earned the hosts the lead from a set piece, heading on a cross from Jose Manuel Jurado from the middle of the box, but the Greek's effort slid just past the right post. Then moments later, Raul gave the hosts the advantage when he controlled the ball from 30 yards out, looking to play Huntelaar into the box, where Fernando Amorebieta got a touch on it, sending it into the air.
Raul followed up, drilling a volley from outside the box into the right side of the goal with thunderous power, leaving the Bilbao keeper with no chance, earning his 75th and 76th goals in Europe.

Llorente would match his compatriot's effort, however, heading home at the front post from a corner in the 83rd minute to again level the game. The remaining action saw plenty of space in attack for both teams, with the Spanish making the most of it. 10 minutes from time, De Marcos tapped home a rebound from a few yards out after substitute keeper Mathias Schober could not control a shot from Markel Susaeta. In the dying minutes, Muniain made it four on the counterattack, with Susaeta flying down the right before playing the young attacker at the middle of the box, where he finished with ease into the centre of the net. Marcelo Bielsa's side could celebrate a significant triumph, and with the second leg at San Mames next week, Bilbao look all but certain to be in the semi-finals.

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