Europa League Round of 32 first leg match reports: A mostly positive night for British teams
RZ Pellets WAC 1 – Tottenham Hotspur 4
It was a strong showing by Jose Mourinho’s men, as Spurs scored 3 of their 4 goals in the first half to take a demanding lead going into the second leg. Their first goal came just 13 minutes into the game, as Gareth Bale’s low powerful cross found the falling head of Heung-Min Son who guided it into the far corner. Bale then scored 15 minutes later, after a clever turn saw him lose his defender on the right-hand side of the box, before powering it past the keeper in vintage Bale fashion.
Tottenham’s third of the game came on the 34-minute mark after a superb solo run by Lucas Moura was followed with a good finish at the keeper’s near post. Wolfsberger were able to pull one back in the 55th minute when captain Michael Liendl converted his penalty that was given away by a poor Moussa Sissoko challenge. However, Spurs calmed the nerves of their fans when Carlos Vinícius found his way onto the end of Erik Lamela’s header, guiding it past the keeper in the 88th minute.
Real Sociedad 0 – Manchester United 4
Whilst both sides had great chances to score early on and take control, it was Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men who eventually took charge, scoring 3 of their 4 in the second half. The only goal of the first half came when a terrible mix-up between the Sociedad defenders and keeper provided talisman Bruno Fernandes with an essentially open goal finish.
The Portuguese native then added to his tally in the 55th minute, when Daniel James cushioned a Marcus Rashford pass into Bruno’s path, who slotted it past the keeper from the edge of the box – a goal that was originally offside until VAR intervened.
United’s third came after a quick counter-attack saw Rashford get onto the end of a long-driven pass by Fred, who calmly placed it into the keeper’s far corner. James then finished a fine night for United in the 90th minute, when he drove into the box from the right-hand side before nutmegging the keeper on a tight angle to pretty much confirm their status in the next round of the competition.
Slavia Prague 0 – Leicester City 0
A disappointing night for Brendan Rodgers’s Leicester side saw them add extra pressure onto themselves in the search for a win in the second leg after his side failed to convert any of their chances against the Czech Republic side. The first chance came just 50 seconds into the match when a Marc Albrighton’s shot from outside the box glanced past the right post of Prague’s goal.
However, it was Harvey Barnes who had the best chance of the game for Leicester near the 15-minute mark, who after controlling a Youri Tielemans long-range pass, couldn’t convert it past Ondrej Kolar after dribbling it into the box and hitting it right at the keeper. Prague did almost score a screamer in the 58th minute when Nicolae Claudiu Stanciu’s dipping effort from well outside the box almost caught Kasper Schmeichel off-guard, but the Danish keeper was able to palm the ball over his goal.
Benfica 1 – Arsenal 1
An incredibly frustrating night for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side saw them draw a game they could have easily won had they converted their chances. Most notably, captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed probably the easiest chance of his career, when Héctor Bellerín squared a pass into his path before the Gabonese international missed the target from six yards out.
Both goals came in the second half, the first of which being a Benfica penalty in the 55th minute. After a short corner by the Portuguese side found Rafa at the right-hand side of the box near the by-line, his cross was then blocked by the raised arm of Arsenal’s Emile Smith-Rowe. Captain Pizzi converted the penalty past Arsenal’s Bernd Leno despite diving the right way. Arsenal’s blushes were spared however when 2 minutes later, young star Bukayo Saka found his way onto the end of a Cédric Soares cross from the left side of the box, who finished it from the centre of the six-yard box.
Royal Antwerp 3 – Rangers 4
A thrilling 7-goal game saw Steven Gerrard’s side just about take the advantage going into the second leg. The first goal of the game came in the 38th minute when Antwerp keeper Alireza Safar Beiranvand made an absolute howler when attempting to collect the ball, pushing it outside the box to Alfredo Morelos who set it for Joe Aribo to finish into a keeper-less net.
Antwerp did manage to equalise in the 45th minute when Lior Refaelov’s free-kick from half-way inside Rangers’ half was headed home by Felipe Avenatti. They then scored again deep into first-half stoppage time, when a penalty conceded by Steven Davis was emphatically finished by Refaelov.
The second half was just as entertaining as the first. Near the hour mark, Rangers were awarded a penalty after VAR decided that Antwerp captain Ritchie de Laet pulled down Morelos as he attempted a header inside the box. The penalty, scored by Borna Barisic, was edged past Beiranvand’s left side, who arguably should have saved it. Antwerp swiftly responded, when in the 66th minute, Refaelov was once again at the heart of the action. He set teammate Martin Hongla at the edge of the D, who side-footed it across the Rangers goal, off the left post and in.
Ryan Kent then scored a fantastic equaliser in the 83rd minute. After playing a clever 1-2 pass with Morelos near the edge of the box, he then collected the ball, manoeuvred his way past Antwerp’s defenders, then nailed it past the keeper’s left side.
A game filled with drama then concluded with some too, when Rangers were awarded a penalty in the last minute of regular time. Ryan Kent’s shot from inside the box took a deflection wide off the hand of Antwerp defender Abdoulaye Seck, who received his second bookable offence and was sent off for said action. The penalty was converted again by Barisic, who calmly put it into the top right corner, giving Rangers an important win.
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