It was mostly a positive night in the Europa League for British teams, as everyone managed to advance to the next stage of the competition, except for Leicester City, who fell to the champions of Czech Republic, Slavia Prague.
Arsenal 3 – Benfica 2 (Arsenal win 4-3 on aggregate)
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg of this Europa League Round of 32 fixture, both sides had everything to play for in the reverse leg. Arsenal were first to draw blood on 21 minutes. Arsenal youth sensation Bukayo Saka started the move with an exquisite through ball that found captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang perfectly inside the box, before the striker delightfully chipped it over Benfica keeper Helton Leite into the far corner from about 10 yards out.
Benfica equalised right before half-time thanks to a perfect free-kick from 25-yards out by Diogo Gonçalves that rifled into the top left corner, giving Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno no chance. Benfica then took the lead in this Europa League match on 61 minutes from a Rafa goal that was handed to him by Dani Ceballos.
After Leite caught the ball from a corner, the keeper booted it down field into Arsenal’s half, where it looked like Ceballos had a chance to header it clear. Instead, the Spanish midfielder attempts to head it back to Leno, but the pass is short. Rafa is quick to intercept it, before taking it around Leno and putting it into an empty net.
Arsenal now knew they needed two goals to win this Europa League tie and pushed forward, with the first of two coming just 6 minutes after Rafa’s goal. After receiving the ball from Willian on the left wing, Kieran Tierney was able to get into the box, cut outside his marker onto his stronger left foot and fire it into the far bottom corner to give Arsenal hope.
Arsenal’s winner came with just 3 minutes left of regular time thanks to a second from Aubameyang. The goal was once again assisted by Saka, whose wonderfully weighted cross from the right wing was met back-post by the Gabonese striker, who had no problem heading it in at the near post.
Rangers 5 – Royal Antwerp 2 (Rangers win 9-5 on aggregate)
Can we have another two legs of this Europa League tie please? Just like in the first leg, this fixture contained a bunch of goals that saw Rangers put 5 past the Belgian side. The first goal came on 9 minutes, when Antwerp defender Jeremy Gelin’s loose back pass to his keeper is cut out by Ryan Kent, who is able to square it to near the penalty spot, where Alfredo Morelos puts the ball into a keeperless net.
Antwerp equalised in the 31st minute, when winger Jordan Lukaku beat Leon Balogun on the dribble, before putting in a low cross that found Lior Refaelov at the front post, who flicked it on the outside of his right foot, sending the ball through keeper Allan McGregor’s legs into the far corner.
Rangers took the lead immediately after the start of the second half. Morelos’s through ball on the right wing is found by Nathan Patterson, who had come on at half-time, whose first touches are controlling the pass and then smashing it past Antwerp keeper Ortwin De Wolf into the far bottom corner.
Ryan Kent added a goal to his earlier assist in the 55th minute. After a nice move by Morelos where he knocks it past Martin Hongla and runs onto it inside the box, he squares it to Kent just outside the 6-yard box. Although the shot is straight at De Wolf, Kent’s strike has too much power from close range for him to do anything about it, as it ricochets off him and finds the back of the net.
Two minutes later, another goal, this time by Antwerp striker Didier Lamkel Ze. Refaelov’s ball over the Rangers defence bounces up nicely for Lamkel Ze, whose timely touch knocks it between a colliding McGregor and Connor Goldson before he squeezes the ball into the open net from a tight angle.
Rangers’ final two goals of this Europa League match were both penalties and finally secured the win for Steven Gerrard’s side. Borna Barisic scored the first after Morelos was tripped inside the box by Maxime Le Marchand in the 79th minute. Then in the 92nd minute, Scott Wright was pulled down by Nana Ampomah on the right side of the box, where Cedric Itten was able to convert Rangers’ fifth goal of the evening.
Leicester City 0 – Slavia Prague 2 (Slavia Prague win 2-0 on aggregate)
Despite their fine form in the Premier League this season, Leicester were unable to replicate that form here in the Europa League, as they fell, at home, to Slavia Prague after having 62% possession for the game.
Prague’s first goal came in the 49th minute thanks to Lukáš Provod. A Nicolae Claudiu Stanciu deep cross from the right wing found an unmarked Provod, who ran in to meet the landing of the ball and finished it first-time past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel into the bottom right corner.
Prague then doubled their lead and essentially decided this Europa League tie in the 79th minute thanks to a brilliant long-range effort by Abdallah Dipo Sima. The goal started when Peter Oladeji Olayinka, half-way into Leicester’s half, dribbled inside from the left wing before playing a short pass the way he was facing to Sima. The Senegalese international controls the pass, taking a few touches to set himself up, before unleashing a driven shot from the edge of Leicester’s D into the bottom right corner.
Manchester United 0 – Real Sociedad 0 (United win 4-0 on aggregate)
After Manchester United dominated the first leg against Real Sociedad 4-0, it was all but over already for the Spanish side, who failed to score in either leg. They thought they had a chance to score early on in the 12th minute, when Daniel James conceded a penalty by running into the back of Andoni Gorosabel inside the right-side of the box. However, captain and star man, Mikel Oyarzabal, was unable to score, firing the penalty high-and-wide, not troubling United keeper Dean Henderson whatsoever.
Bruno Fernandes had a spectacular strike denied by the crossbar in the 23rd minute. After a through ball from Mason Greenwood, Fred was able to take it around keeper Álex Remiro before cutting it back to the edge of the box. The pass was found by Bruno, whose first-time strike looped over everyone and seemed destined for the far top corner, but the woodwork had other ideas.
In the 49th minute, Sociedad came close to scoring again, but were also denied by the crossbar, after Modibo Sagnan’s header from 8 yards out failed to hit the target. United then had a goal overturned by VAR in the 62nd minute, denying young defender Axel Tuanzebe his first senior goal for the club. After heading in from a corner from the left side, VAR saw that fellow centre-back Victor Lindelöf had clattered into the back of Sociedad’s Jon Bautista at the front post right before Tuanzebe scored, meaning the goal was disallowed and a yellow card was given to Lindelöf.
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