We have finally reached the knockout stage of the Europa League and the competition is beginning to heat up following the introduction of the third-placed sides from the Champions League group stage.
Liverpool, Roma and Ajax are among the biggest names fighting for the right to have their name on the trophy in Warsaw come May. Here’s a review of some of the games that took place last night.
Celtic 3-3 Inter
It all went awry for Ronny Deila’s team in the opening quarter of an hour; Xherdan Shaqiri scored at the second attempt after Craig Gordon had saved his first-time volley before Rodrigo Palacio made the most of a defensive lapse to slot home.
Stuart Armstrong, making his debut in Europe after joining from Dundee United struck gold after a wonderful pass from the right hand side courtesy of Adam Matthews before Armstrong forced Hugo Campagnaro to knock the ball into his own net.
A dreadful error from Gordon has attempted to latch onto a ball that had found it’s way into the Bhoys’ penalty area was capitalised on by Palacio, the Argentinian getting his second right on half time.
Yet Celtic had the last laugh, equalising deep into injury time after John Guidetti had come off the bench to score his first goal in ten games. It will be tough for Deila’s outfit to recover from conceding three away goals ahead of the away leg in Milan, but they left their wonderful home support with a smile on their faces.
Liverpool 1-0 Besiktas
It wasn’t quite the imperious score line as we saw in the Champions League seven years ago, where the Reds beat the Turkish side 8-0, but a controversial penalty from Mario Balotelli gives Brendan Rodgers’ side a lead going to Istanbul next week.
In a dull affair, where Daniel Sturridge was wasteful and Adam Lallana missed an open goal, it was Balotelli who won the game for Liverpool after the impressive Jordan Ibe won a penalty in the 84th minute. Following a brief debate with Jordan Henderson, Balotelli fired home an exquisite spot kick, piling the pressure on Besiktas in the second-leg.
Tottenham 1-1 Fiorentina
With this being the first of a gruelling fixture list of six matches in 17 days, Mauricio Pochettino chose to rest Harry Kane and start Roberto Soldado against Vicenzo Montella’s Firenze, and it was a move that looked likely to pay off six minutes into the game, the Spaniard volleying in from Paulinho’s corner.
However, Montella has made Fiorentina hard to beat on their travels, going thirteen games without defeat, and Jose Maria Basanta, who appeared twice for Argentina in the World Cup scrambled home an equaliser after Matias Fernandez’s ferocious free kick was beaten away by Hugo Lloris.
Nacer Chadi hit the bar as the second half begun but the Italians held on, and should they hold Spurs to a 0-0 draw they will progress.
Wolfsburg 2-0 Sporting Lisbon
Second in the Bundesliga, through to the next round of the German cup, Dieter Hecking’s side continued their unstoppable march, with in-form forward Bas Dost scoring a brace.
Naldo outmuscled the Sporting midfield before sending a superb through ball to Dost, who placed his shot into the bottom right hand corner.
A delicious Kevin de Bruyne cross , who features in our 10 players to watch in Europe, was again rifled home by the prolific Dutchman. Check out a sensational pass from de Bruyne last night below.
Best of the rest
Holders Sevilla won narrowly at home to German side Borussia Moenchengladbach after the away side were guilty of missing several good chances.
Christoph Kramer, Fabian Johnson and Oscar Wendt all missed good chances before Vicente Iborra guided the ball home in the 70th minute. Elsewhere, Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as Everton won at Young Boys 4-1, while Roma slipped up at home, drawing 1-1 at Feyenoord.
Goals of the night
Some classy skill here from the Ivory Coast international to put Roma 1-0 up.
2) Denis Cheryshev
A brilliant one-two finished off by the sweetest of volleys as Cheryshev’s goal beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 in Villareal.
1) Arkadiusz Milik
On loan from Leverkusen, Polish forward Milik broke the hearts of a team from his homeland, Legia Warsaw, with a beautiful curved effort to give Ajax a slender advantage going into the away tie in Poland.
Callum Connolly, Pundit Arena