UEFA Europa League Round-Up: Thursday 5th April 2012

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor

 

 

The Spanish side, who defeated Manchester United in the last round, progress to the last four for the first time ever

 

Another high-scoring affair saw Athletic Bilbao advance to the semi-finals of the Europa League after drawing 2-2 against Schalke 04 at San Mames, winning the tie 6-4 on aggregate.

After a 4-2 victory in Germany last week, Marcelo Bielsa's men managed to comeback from a goal down on two occasions to level the score and secure the tie, setting up a date with Portugal's Sporting Lisbon in the final four. It took just 10 minutes for the visitors to create their first chance. A lobbed ball into the box found Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who acrobatically volleyed it on to the crossbar, but Gorka Iraizoz managed to get a hand on it sending it over the goal. Both teams managed to advance up the pitch in the ensuing minutes but failed to create quality threats until the German's star striker rebounded to fire home the first. 28 minutes in, Huntelaar gained possession of the ball on the edge of the box after a pass from Chinedu Obasi, before moving toward the centre and firing a low, right-footed effort into the lower-left of the net, beating the outstretched hand of the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper. Ander Herrera was taken off with an injury half an hour in, with Ibai Gomez replacing him. The fresh face attacker managed to turn the tide just five minutes from the break after receiving the ball on the left wing. Gomez took a touch inside from distance before hitting a wonderful effort that curled past Lars Unnerstall, falling into the inside of the far post to make it 1-1.  the second period, the guests took the lead on the evening again with a delightful strike from the edge of the box. After receiving a ball from Obasi, Raul drilled a curling effort into the right side of the goal, which hit off the post, making it 2-1 and providing a bit of hope for his side. Just moments later, Marcelo Bielsa's man killed Schalke's hopes of reaching the semi-finals by scoring the tenth goal in the tie. Markel Susaeta finished with a low effort from just outside the box into the right side of the goal after a through ball from Fernando Llorente. The Basque outfit will now play the semi-finals on April 19th and 26th against Sporting Lisbon, while Huub Stevens' men see their hope of European glory reach its end this season. 

 

Sporting Lisbon made it through to the Europa League semi-finals after holding Metalist Kharkiv to a 1-1 draw in Ukraine, advancing 3-2 on aggregate.

A first-half goal from Ricky van Wolfswinkel put the visitors in the lead, before Jonatan Cristaldo restored parity shortly after the break. Metalist then spurred a chance to take the lead as Cleiton Xavier missed a penalty given by Scottish referee Willie Collum following a foul by Xandao on Devic. The match started off at a fast pace, with Metalist in command of proceedings, as the Ukrainians went in search for the goal which could send them through. However, it was not until the 27th minute that a genuine chance was created. Cleiton Xavier picked up the ball inside the Sporting box and attempted a volley from a tight angle, but Rui Patricio tipped the ball round the post. Four minutes later, it was Taison's turn to wreak havoc as he picked up the ball out 25 yards out and moved past two defenders, but his low shot was denied by Patricio's right leg. Metalist was in control of the match, but just before halftime it was penalized for its inability to convert its superiority into goals. Diego Capel, down the left flank, cut inside before delivering a cross to the far post. Van Wolfswinkel rose between two defenders to head the ball past Olexandr Goryainov. The second half began with Metalist once again the livelier of the two sides, and the hosts equalized in the 57th minute through Cristaldo, who sent a low shot through the legs of Patricio after being assisted by Marko Devic. The Ukrainians wasted a clear chance to score just seven minutes later, when they were awarded a penalty after Devic was felled by Emiliano Insua inside the box. Cleiton Xavier failed to convert from the spot as his low shot was stopped by Patricio's left leg. With this result, Sporting is through to the semifinals of the competition, where it will tackle Athletic Bilbao.

 

Valencia booked its place in the semifinals of the Europa League at the expense of AZ Alkmaar after winning 5-2 on aggregate following a 4-0 victory at Mestalla Stadium.

The game started with a bang, with Los Che providing the early pressure. They knew they needed at least one goal, and were seeking it early on, looking most dangerous from set pieces. Indeed, it was a corner that led to the first goal. On the quarter-hour mark, Tino Costa passed to Feghouli, who crossed from the right for defender Abdil Rami to emphatically head home, with Esteban Alvarado missing the punch. Just two minutes later, it was Rami again, and a corner again, that put the hosts two up, and ahead on aggregate. Tino Costa crossed in after another short corner, the ball was flicked on, and Rami was there at the back post to sweep in a volley. The Dutch side was looking shell-shocked, but it did muster an effort on target. Adam Maher had a speculative first-time shot from distance, with Diego Alves doing well to claw the ball over the bar. Jonas was looking lively for Los Che, having an effort from range just before the half-hour, his shot going harmlessly wide. Then just before halftime, he slipped Soldado through, but Esteban saved. The ball was whipped back into the box, and Jonas headed just wide of the left-hand post. AZ came out in the second half knowing a goal would take the tie to extra-time, but the statistics were against him. AZ has only won one game away from home in the Europa League this season, whereas Valencia has not lost at home in Europe this season. Truly, the game was going to form as Jordi Alba put the hosts three up on the night. Wave after wave of attack was coming the Dutch side’s way. Dirk Marcellis blocked a shot on the line, Nick Viergever was dispossessed, and Soldado was put through into the box to square to Jordi Alba to poke home on 56 minutes. Valencia was comfortable, and it made the victory safe with a goal from Pablo Hernandez after 80 minutes. Jordi Alba swept in a cross from the left into the path of Pablo Hernandez in the box. He finished with aplomb, curling a finish into the top right-hand corner of the goal. Unai Emery’s side is into the semifinals of the competition for the first time since the year it won the trophy back in 2004. Now it is one of the favorites for the title this year. Gertjan Verbeek’s team can be satisfied with its effort, being the only Dutch squad to reach the auarterfinals this season.

 

Atletico Madrid overcame a late Hannover scare, earning a 2-1 win that was enough to see them into the Europa League semifinal- winning 4-2 on aggregate.

Chances were at a premium in a rather drab affair but Adrian made the most of his first chance to put Los Colcherones ahead with just over an hour played. Mame Diouf equalized with 10 minutes remaining but Radamel Falcao’s winner ended any hopes for the hosts. Atletico attempted to control possession from the off but the hosts were unwilling to let their opponents control the play, showing great confidence in front of their own fans. Christian Pander’s regular forays forward were proving troublesome for the Spaniards but for all their intent, chances were limited. Diouf and dragged a shot wide of the goal after capitalizing on a defensive mix-up and in the 24th minute Didier Konan Ya missed another. After breaking through the Atletico defense he stabbed a feeble effort well off target. With the hosts lacking invention in the final third, Atletico offered a warning with two counterattacks in the 30th and 40th minutes. However, on both occasions Koke failed to pick out one of his team-mates with some dreadful passing. The lacklustre finishing continued three minutes into the second half as Falcao uncharacteristically miscued a great opportunity to shoot from the right side of the box. Diego Simeone’s side were enjoying a far better second half as Filipe attacked down the left in an attempt to stretch an increasingly dishevelled Hannover defence. The breakthrough finally came after 63 minutes as Adrian turned Emanuel Pogatetz superbly in the box before cutting across Pander and then Zieler. He kept his composure to beat Pander once more and shrug off the keeper again before slotting into the net. The hosts were visibly knocked by the goal and were offering Atletico far too much time and space on the goal. However, they received a glimmer of hope as Pander’s corner was flicked on to Diouf by Diego Godin. Unmarked at the back post, he controlled the ball on his chest before volleying the ball past Thibaut Courtois.
In a bitter blow for Mirko Slomka’s men, Falcao secured the win for Atletico in the 87th minute. The Colombian cushioned Diego's delightful chipped pass before hammering an exquisite volley into the back of the net. Atletico Madrid will face compatriots Valencia in the semifinal whilst Hannover's European adventure comes to a close after an impressive run.

 

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