Europa League Results: Analysis for Juventus-Lyon and All Quarter-Finals
Thursday saw all four Europa League quarter-finals get underway, with a number of eye-catching first leg ties taking place.
In perhaps the headline game on paper, French side Olympique Lyon hosted Serie A champions-elect Juventus at Stade Gerland, while a similarly intriguing tie between Porto and Sevilla took place at the same time in Portugal.
Elsewhere, AZ Alkmaar welcomed Benfica to the Netherlands—while Valencia travelled to Switzerland to meet FC Basel.
(All statistics via WhoScored.com, quotes via UEFA.com unless stated)
Lyon 0-1 Juventus
An 85th minute finish from defender Leonardo Bonucci means Juventus remain on course to play this season’s Europa League final in their home stadium.
Juventus were forced to sweat for long periods of their quarter-final first leg against Lyon on Thursday, but Bonucci was on hand to steer home the rebound after Paul Pogba’s initial shot had been blocked—putting Antonio Conte’s side firmly in the driving seat in the tie.
In truth, Juventus had other chances to score prior to that—with Carlos Tevez and Mirko Vucinic unable to convert great openings in either half—but Lyon were not without their threat, as the likes of Samuel Umtiti and Steed Malbranque forced eye-catching saves from Gianluigi Buffon.
The Italian side fended off those threats and others, however, and they will now be confident they can get the result in front of their home fans that will put them into the semi-finals—and one step away from the Turin showpiece.
Afterwards, Juventus midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah told Sky Italia (via Football Italia):
Above all in the second half we played well. The first half was alright, but we didn't do enough of the movements we had practised in training.
We also did better out of possession and weren't pushed back so much.
At this moment there are many players out injured, so the rest of us have to work twice as hard and it’s not easy.
I am ready to play every game if the coach asks, as I am a professional and prepared to do anything for the team. It’s better for a player to be on all the time than to be out of action.
On target: 1-3
Pass completion: 75%-80%
Porto 1-0 Sevilla
Porto claimed a 1-0 victory over Sevilla in the first leg of their quarter-final tie, but they will be without two key players for next week’s second leg in Spain.
Promising defender Eliaquim Mangala got the game’s only goal after diving full length to get on the end of Ricardo Quaresma’s improvised cross, but late cards for striker Jackson Martinez and midfielder Fernando mean both men will miss the return meeting.
Fernando, in fact, received two yellow cards in quick succession—the first for a clumsy foul on Kevin Gameiro, before picking up his second instantly for kicking the ball away.
An entertaining game in Portugal surprisingly only managed to produce one goal, although that was not for the want of trying. Quaresma in particular was a threat all night, while Ivan Rakitic looked dangerous for the visitors as they tried to find an away goal on the counter.
Both players were denied on a couple of occasions, while Gameiro squandered a glorious late opening to give Sevilla the draw.
In the end, the only goal came from a moment of smart thinking from the home side. A quickly-taken free-kick released Quaresma down the left, and the winger put an inviting cross into the box with the outside of his right foot.
The ball was there to be won, and Mangala showed the greater hunger as he dived in to head beyond the goalkeeper and give his side the advantage heading into the return leg.
On target: 5-2
Pass completion: 85%-73%
AZ Alkmaar 0-1 Benfica
Eduardo Salvio’s finish shortly after half-time was the difference as Benfica picked up a 1-0 away win in their first leg meeting with AZ Alkmaar.
Salvio fired home the rebound after Oscar Cardozo had seen his first effort saved to secure the advantage for his side, as they return to Portugal confident they will move on to the final four.
AZ peppered the Benfica goal but, despite the best attempts from the likes of Aron Johannsson and Steven Berghuis, could not find a way past Artur as Jorge Jesus’s side came away with the win.
On target: 5-6
Pass completion: 84%-79%
FC Basel 3-0 Valencia
Swiss side FC Basel look to be the closest side to the competition’s semi-finals, after Valentin Stocker’s injury-time strike gave them a 3-0 first leg victory over a flat Valencia side.
Two goals in a four-minute span from Matias Delgado had already given Murat Yakin’s side an encouraging cushion in the tie, but Stocker found the net in the first minute of time added on to leave the Spanish side facing a huge task in the second leg.
Despite the performance, the result was not celebrated wildly by the home fans—the match was played behind closed doors after the club's fans threw objects onto the pitch and delayed the recent game with Salzburg by 12 minutes.
On target: 6-4
Pass completion: 82%-87%