Europa League Round Up: A Night Of Turnarounds

UEFA Europa League

The first leg of the Europa League’s second qualifying round highlighted the fact that there can be plenty of shocks in the competition. That has carried on in the second, as Ostersunds knocked out Galatasaray. The Turks had a large task on their hand after losing 2-0 in the first leg and weren’t up to the task, as they could only get a 1-1 draw on home soil.

Galatasaray may have been unable to overturn their deficit, but there were five teams who did just that. The most dramatic of those turnarounds was arguably Lithuanian side Trakai’s against Norrkoping. The Swedes had won the first leg 2-1 but ended up losing the second leg by the same score line due to two first half goals from Maksim Maksimov, meaning the match was decided by a penalty shootout. Eric Smith missed for Norrkoping, while all of Trakai’s penalties were converted, which sends Trakai through to the next round. They will face Shkendija, who held onto their first leg win over HJK, drawing 1-1 in the second leg.

The next of the turnarounds regards the game that decided who would face off against Everton in the next round. Brann went into the second with a 1-0 lead, but Ruzomberok won 2-0 in the second leg thanks to two second half goals, meaning that Everton will be travelling to Slovakia for their first Europa League tie of the season.

The biggest shock of the turnarounds has to be Fola Esch of Luxembourg against Inter Baku of Azerbaijan. Inter Baku went into this with a 1-0 lead after the first leg, but on their own patch Fola turned it around winning 4-1 on the night, taking it to 4-2 on aggregate. The side from Luxembourg had gone 3-0 up before Pardis Fardjad-Azad scored for Inter Baku giving the Azerbaijanis a chance. However, a 94th-minute goal from Cedric Sacras secured their place in the next round, sparking wild celebrations.

Lech Poznan and Sturm Graz are the other two teams to overturn deficits to progress. Lech Poznan had been trailing Haugesund 3-2 but booked their place in the next round with a 2-0 win thanks to a 93rd-minute goal from Lasse Nielsen. Sturm Graz had been trailing Mladost Podgorica 1-0 but went on to win the second leg 3-0.

Regarding the home nations, Aberdeen were the only ones who managed to get through. They had drawn the first leg against Siroki Brijeg 1-1, meaning they had to win or get a high scoring draw in Bosnia to ensure they got through. Thanks to two brilliant assists from Ryan Christie Aberdeen won the game 2-0, putting them through to face Apollon Limassol of Cyprus in the next round. Cork City had lost their first leg against AEK Larnaca 1-0 and lost the return leg by the same score line, while Shamrock Rovers lost 2-0 in Czech Republic following a 3-2 home loss against Mlada Boleslov, which means both of the Irish sides are now out of the competition.

The biggest win of the night was Botev Plovdiv’s 4-0 win over Beitar Jerusalem. Although over the two legs it was Maccabi Tel Aviv, Midtjylland, and Apollon Limassol, as well as Botev Plovdiv, who had the biggest win over the two legs, each winning by four goals on aggregate.

Red Star Belgrade’s Richard Boakye is still leading the way in the race for the golden boot with five goals and one assist, but he is closely followed by Trakai’s Maksim Maksimov who has five goals but no assists.

The five matches to look out for in the next round are: Panathinaikos (Gre) vs Gabala (Aze), Austria Vienna (Aus) vs AEL Limassol (Cyp), Utrecht (Net) vs Lech Poznan (Pol), AIK (Swe) vs Braga (Por) and Brondby (Den) vs Hajduk Split (Cro).