About the Europa League

Now you didn’t think we had forgotten about the Europa League, did you?

As the ‘younger brother’ of the Champions League, it often gets looked at as the second-rate League for second-rate European League.

Arsenal 2

Thursday 11

Aaron Ramsey (14), Kalidou Koulibaly (25 own goal)

Napoli 0

Aaron Ramsey (middle) celebrates with his teammates after scoring
Aaron Ramsey (middle) celebrates with his team mates after scoring. Credit: Express UK

Arsenal scored two early goals to see them get an advantage over Napoli in the second leg.

Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey and Alexandre Lacazette combined forces, and Ainsely Maitland-Niles finally set it up for Aaron Ramsey to return and score from inside the box.

Ramsey and Maitland-Niles had both been blocked from scoring by Kalidou Koulibaly before their combined effort provided a goal in the 14th minute, proving that if at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again, literally.

Kalidou Koulibaly (middle)
Kalidou Koulibaly (middle). Credit: Manchester Evening News

And then, Lucas Torreira won the ball in the Napoli half, broke up the play and sped towards the goal, before hitting home – but, and this is a big but- there was a deflection off Kalidou Koulibaly, a Napoli player of ‘colour’. And then this led to some racist remarks against him.

Arsenal and Napoli had other chances but failed to convert them. The home team definitely looked more dominant, but the second leg will ultimately determine who goes forward.

Slavia Praha 0

Chelsea 1

Marcus Alonso (86)

Chelsea's Marcos Alonso (left) celebrates with Olivier Giroud
Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso (left) celebrates with Olivier Giroud (right). Credit: The Standard UK

Chelsea gave a sub-par performance, in tune with their English team counterparts in the Champions League.

Slavia Praha started quickly, with two minutes being enough to attempt a goal, but Simon Deli could not direct his header into the net.

In the first half, Chelsea sputtered and fumbled without a single shot on target besides Willian’s shot at the goal post.

When the visitors came out in the second half, however, they returned with renewed vigor, as they began to look like the superior team. Olivier Giroud’s attempt went wide, and Antonio Rudiger shot low but was blocked by Kolar’s feet.

Alonso ghosted into the game in the 86th minute, to catch a cross from Brazilian teammate Willian and headed it past Slavia’s keeper.

With this result, Chelsea has the advantage for the next leg and hopefully for their Premier League match against Liverpool on Sunday.

Benefica 4

João Félix (Penalty goal-21, 43, 54), Rúben Días (50)

Eintracht Frankfurt 2

Luka Jović (40), Gonçalo Paciência (72)

João Félix (bottom second right) can't believe his amazing performance
João Félix (bottom second right) can’t believe his amazing performance with his team. Credit: Marca

It was a busy night for two main people on the pitch on Thursday night: João Félix and referee Anthony Taylor.

Teenager João Félix, a graduate of Benefica’s academy, set a record in Europe, as the youngest ever player to score a hat-trick in the Europa League at 19 years and 152 days. (The days are important!)

Nineteen year old João Félix
Nineteen year old João Félix. Credit: Fox Sports

The record was previously held by Marko Pjaca who played for Dinamo Zagreb against Celtic in 2014 at 19 years and 219 days.

English referee Anthony Taylor awarded one penalty and a red card against Eintracht’s Evan Ndicka.

Villarreal 1

Santi Cazorla (Penalty goal-36)

Valencia 3

Gonçalo Guedes (6, 90+3), Daniel Wass (90)

Villareal players celebrate their goal
Villareal players celebrate their goal before Valencia’s comeback. Credit: Marca

Valencia scored their goal first in the 6th minute, being the quickest to rebound to Villareal’s Dani Parejo’s penalty miss, but Villarreal equalised through a successful penalty of their own.

The game looked an agreed draw, until Valencia took it upon themselves to score in the match’s dying minutes, effectively shattering the dreams of their hosts. (Not very polite.)

Visitors Valencia celebrate their late win
Visitors Valencia celebrate their late win. Credit: Marca

This has been the song Villarreal has been singing for a while now; feeling that the victory is theirs until it is snatched away from them.

Another English referee, Michael Oliver, was the main man on the pitch, as he awarded two penalties.

Villarreal midfielder, Santiago Caseres, reacts to Michael Oliver's penalty decision
Villarreal midfielder, Santiago Caseres, reacts to Michael Oliver’s penalty decision. Credit: BBC

By the way, what do you think about the new match score format? Is this way better or worse?

Please let me know in the comments and thanks for reading.


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