Europa League Round Up: AC Milan and Villarreal qualify

Europa League

Lazio were the last team to have a 100% record in the Europa League this season but they lost it this week. More importantly though, with this being the penultimate game week of the group stages plenty of teams have had their fate decided by now. This round up will tell you all you need to know about this week’s action.

Group A

FC Astana 2–3 Villarreal

Maccabi Tel Aviv 0–2 Slavia Prague

When Junior Kabananga opened the scoring for Astana against Villarreal it looked as though the Spaniards could have to get a result from their last game to get through to the knockout stages. However, after a first half equaliser Cedric Bakambu came off the bench on the hour mark and scored twice to secure El Submarino Amarillo’s place in the next round. In the other fixture Maccabi Tel Aviv didn’t really have anything to play for apart from pride as they were already confirmed to be out of the competition. Slavia Prague on the other hand have plenty of motivation, as the win secured by a brilliantly taken double from Josef Husbauer has put them one point ahead of Astana. This has set up a great game between the Czechs and Kazakhstan based club in the next round of matches to decide who progresses to the next round.

Group B

Skenderbeu 3–2 Dynamo Kyiv

Partizan Belgrade 2–1 Young Boys

The big game in this group was Partizan Belgrade vs Young Boys, as with the two teams separated by just two points, whoever was victorious would go into the second place spot behind Dynamo Kyiv, who’s place in the knockout rounds was already secured. It was the Serbian side who won and in turn confirmed their progression to the next round despite Skenderbeu beating Kyiv in dramatic fashion.

Group C

Ludogorets 1–2 Istanbul Basaksehir

Braga 3–1 Hoffenheim 

Braga secured their place in the knockout rounds with an opening minute goal from Goiano Marcelinho in the first minute and a Fransergio brace in the final ten minutes of their match against Hoffenheim. A draw would have been enough for Ludogorets to join them in the next round, but two first-half strikes from Istanbul Basaksehir prevented that from happening. The Bulgarians now face Hoffenheim -who have nothing to play for- in the next round of games and once again a point will be enough to get them through.

Group D

AC Milan 5–1 Austria Vienna

AEK Athens 2–2 Rijeka

Things looked bad for Milan when below par defensive work from Gianluigi Donnarumma and Leonardo Bonucci allowed Christoph Monschein to open the scoring for Austria Vienna. However, an equaliser from Ricardo Rodriguez followed by a brace apiece from Andre Silva and Patrick Cutrone handed AC Milan a comfortable win which secured their place in the knockout rounds. Had AEK Athens beaten Croatian side Rijeka they would have joined I Rossoneri in the knockout rounds, but two early goals from Alexander Gorgon meant they were unable to do this. Although the Greeks did manage to pull the game back to ensure that their fate stays in their own hands.

Group E

Everton 1–5 Atalanta

Lyon 4–0 Apollon Limassol

Everton were already out of the running for a place in the knockout rounds and it was near impossible for Apollon Limassol, but Atalanta and Lyon reasserted their dominance this week. David Unsworth didn’t do himself any favours in regards to retaining the Everton job, as his side which included Beni Baningime and had Morgan Feeney come off the bench were battered 5-1 despite Joel Robles saving a penalty from Alejandro Gomez and Sandro Ramirez scoring his first competitive goal for the Toffees. Bryan Cristante and Andreas Cornelius got a brace each, with Robin Gosens also getting in on the act. Lyon swept Apollon Limassol aside, with the best of the goals coming from Nabil Fekir.

Group F

Lokomotiv Moscow 2–1 FC Copenhagen

Sheriff Tiraspol 1–0 Zlin

This group has been too close to call throughout and the situation has changed once again. Sheriff Tiraspol managed to hang onto top spot with a 1-0 win over Zlin secured with a goal from Brazilian striker Jairo. The big one though was Lokomotiv Moscow vs Copenhagen, as last week the Russian side went from top to third. However, a brace from Jefferson Farfan was enough to get the win for Lokomotiv Moscow and put them back in the top two. Keep your eyes on this group in the next game week, as Sheriff Tiraspol, Lokomotiv Moscow and Copenhagen fight it out for the top two places.

Group G

Viktoria Plzen 2–0 FCSB

Lugano 1-0 Hapoel Be’er Sheva

FCSB were unbeaten before their match against Viktoria Plzen, but the Czechs managed to overcome them with two second-half goals. The victory for Plzen puts them in second spot, just one point behind FCSB. Lugano have given themselves a slim chance of progressing with a win over Hapoel Be’er Sheva, but a point for Viktoria Plzen in their final group game will be enough to keep the Swiss side out of the top two.

Group H

FC Koln 1–0 Arsenal

BATE Borisov 0–0 Red Star Belgrade

Arsenal may already be through, but they will have wanted to maintain their unbeaten run in the Europa League. However, a penalty converted by Sehrou Guirassy was enough to get all three points for FC Koln. This result alongside Red Star Belgrade’s draw against BATE Borisov has set up an interesting finish to the group. Red Star and Koln both have six points and will face off in the next round of matches, opening up the ultimate winner takes all situation.

Group I

Red Bull Salzburg 3–0 Vitoria Guimaraes

Konyaspor 1–1 Marseille

Red Bull Salzburg comfortably beat Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes to secure their progression to the next round as group champions. The group’s other match saved all of it’s action for the final 10 minutes. Jordan Amavi was sent off in the 80th minute for conceding a penalty which was converted by Nejc Skubic. Konyaspor were just moments away from winning the game and overtaking Marseille to occupy second place in the group, but a ball across goal was turned into their net by the Turkish club’s centre-back Wilfred Moke. Marseille have just about kept hold of their spot in second place but there is still a chance Konyaspor can make up for that missed opportunity in the final game of the groups.

Group J

Ostersund 2–0 Zorya Luhansk

Athletic Bilbao 3–2 Hertha Berlin

This matchday was always going to be a big turning point in Group J, with the top and bottom two facing off against each other in what was a very close contest. It was a surprise to many that Ostersund and Zorya Luhansk were the top two going into this, but that has now changed. Ostersund won their game 2-0 thanks to an own goal from Zorya centre-back Dmytro Grechyshkin and a special strike from Saman Ghoddos, with the result confirming that the Swedish club’s incredible story continues into the knockout stages. This result allowed Athletic Bilbao to overtake Zorya with a victory over Hertha Berlin, with Aritz Aduriz scoring twice from the penalty spot to cancel out Hertha’s two first-half goals before Inaki Williams struck in the 82nd minute to secure the win for the side from the Basque region.

Group K

Lazio 1–1 Vitesse Arnhem

Nice 3–1 Zulte Waregem

With Lazio already qualified for the knockout rounds they played a weakened side that didn’t include the talismanic Ciro Immobile or Stefan de Vrij. This played into Vitesse’s hands early on as they opened the scoring, however, a brilliant strike from Luis Alberto secured the draw that the Italian outfit needed to confirm their place as Group K champions with a game to spare. Zulte Waregem needed a win to push Nice to the last game for the group’s second place, but two Mario Balotelli goals made this very difficult for the Belgian side. Brian Hamalainen scored a tremendous goal, which was arguably the best of this round of Europa League matches, but a late goal from Nice substitute Adrien Tameze put Nice comfortably through.

Group L

Zenit St Petersburg 2–1 Vardar

Rosenborg 0–1 Real Sociedad

Zenit St Petersburg and Real Sociedad have dominated this group and that didn’t change this game week. Emiliano Rigoni was on the scoresheet for Zenit to keep him at the front of the race for the Golden Boot with six goals and one assist, ahead of Andre Silva thanks to the assist. This contributed to a Zenit win despite a wonder goal from Dejan Blazevski and a penalty miss from Artem Dzyuba. Real Sociedad are normally free-scoring in the Europa League, but it was just the one for them this time, as they had to wait for Mikel Oyarzabal to break the deadlock in the 90th minute.