UEFA Europa League Semi-Final 1st leg Round-Up: Thursday 19th April 2012 

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 

 

 

Emiliano Insua runs over to Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and goalscorer Diego Capel (left) to celebrate the winning goal 

Sporting Lisbon came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao and edge into pole position to reach the Europa League final.

After chasing the game for much of the first period, Jon Aurtenetxe put the Basque side ahead just after the break, but Emiliano Insua got his side level, before Diego Capel completed the turnaround with a fine shot from outside the area. It was the hosts who had the better of the early proceedings. Marat Izmailov had already sent a limp effort wide of the target when Insua forced a fantastic save from Gorka Iraizoz with a ferocious free kick. The early assault of the Bilbao goal continued when Andre Martins pulled the ball across the face of goal, finding an unmarked Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who could only send his shot wide, when he should have struck the back of the net. However, Marcelo Bielsa's men were almost gifted the opener. Markel Susaeta swung in a corner straight to the unmarked Fernando Llorente, who could only head over from a matter of yards. After a frantic opening, the match trailed off as the first half wore on. Susaeta tried in vain to break the deadlock, dragging an effort wide from just outside the area, before Ander Herrera tried to fool Rui Patricio with a looping effort which the Sporting keeper gathered easily. At the other end, the hosts were still threatening, particularly on the break. Joao Pereira struck the outside of the post from a break-neck counterattack, before Van Wolfswinkel fired wide once more with a powerful effort. With the last kick of the opening period, Ricardo Sa Pinto's men should have gone in ahead. Capel launched a break from an Athletic corner, but when the ball came to Insua, who had rocketed forward from the back, the former Galatasaray man lost his footing, letting the opportunity slip away.

Sporting came out from the break in pursuit of the opening goal. Pereira sent in a cross from the right which appeared to strike Fernando Amorebieta on the arm, only for the referee Jonas Eriksson to wave away frantic Portuguese appeals. The decision proved to be decisive. Seconds later, a Susaeta free kick took an unlucky deflection off Insua into Aurtenetxe's path, and the 20-year-old kept his cool to tuck the ball past Patricio and grab his side a vital away goal. Soon after, another Susaeta set piece caused mayhem in the Sporting box. Anderson Polga sent a poor clearance into straight to Amorebieta, who drove a shot against the woodwork with Patricio stranded. Despite the visitors' domination, Sporting should have been back on level terms with 20 minutes left to play. Izmailov sent in a great cross which Van Wolfswinkel could only nod wide when he should have buried it. The miss only served to fire the hosts on. Shortly afterwards, Capel crossed from the right, and a tame clearance fell to Insua who flew into the box ahead of Susaeta and headed the ball into the far corner. That was just the beginning. Seconds later, Capel collected the ball 20 yards from goal, and sent a piledriver into the bottom corner, past the sprawling Iraizoz. Van Wolfswinkel squandered another opportunity, lifting a left-footed effort over the bar, before Andre Carrillo flashed an effort narrowly wide. In the end, however, the Portuguese outfit were made to settle for a one-goal lead, which Bilbao, having netted an away goal, will fancy their chances of overturning in a week's time in Spain.  

 

Falcao (pictured above) now has ten goals in the Europa League this season- having scored 17 in last season's competition for winners FC Porto

 

Atletico Madrid have one foot into the final of the Europa League after dominating Valencia 4-2 in their semi-final first leg at Vicente Calderon.

Three second half goals gave Atleti a commanding position after the visitors drew level late in the first half, but a late header from Ricard Costa handed Los Che a precious second away goal, and makes the return match at Mestalla a less daunting task. In the first 10 minutes, the home side had little trouble invading the visiting box, firing two dangerous efforts at Diego Alves, who stopped both Diego and Adrian Lopez with fine saves. Seven minutes later, however, Alves couldn't continue his heroics. Radamel Falcao found the net with a simple header from close range after Adil Rami could not stop Arda Turan, who beat the France defender at the bye-line with his pace. His ball across hit Jordi Alba before finding the head of the Colombian, who finished with ease. With the match appearing to head into the break at 1-0, Valencia struck somewhat against the run of play. From a corner Rami made contact, heading the ball down to the far post, where Jonas pounced to tap it in, sending the away fans into a frenzy. The home support would get their chance to celebrate again, however, as their side enjoyed a superb start to the second half.

In the 48th minute, poor defending saw a free kick from Diego find Miranda inside the heart of the box, where the Brazilian headed past Alves with a simple header. It took just six minutes for Atleti's third. Adrian took the ball from Mehmet Topal, flew past Victor Ruiz at the edge of the area before firing into the left side of the net, bagging his seventh goal of the competition. The game was getting away from Valencia at this stage, and Atletico almost registered their fourth with 25 minutes remaining. Adrian fired a powerful effort from outside the box that was saved low by Alves, with Turan hitting the rebound on goal, but Alves was again there to stop the effort and prevent the visitors from more embarrassment. But Atletico Madrid eventually grabbed goal number four on 77 minutes after a fine solo effort from Falcao. The former Porto man dribbled past Ruiz and Jeremy Mathieu at the corner of the box, before cutting inside and drilling the ball into the upper-right corner. Yet Atletico were to be deflated due to the concession of a late goal- another away one to be wary of. In injury time Ricardo Costa headed home a late cross inside the box in added time, and put a different complexion on the second leg next week at the Mestalla Stadium.  

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