As if to directly answer a crazy week in the Champions League, the Europa League provided plenty of drama across four quarter finals on Thursday evening.
Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Lazio and RB Leipzig were in the respective driving seats before kick-off – but on a night of twists and turns in Europe’s secondary club competition, not all of those sides would make it through to the last four.
There was still some Premier League interest in the Europa League with Arsenal still going strong, and a 4-1 first leg win against CSKA Moscow would surely five them a comfortable evening in the second leg.
However, on a which Barcelona threw away a three-goal lead and Real Madrid did their level best to do likewise, the Gunners could be forgiven for feeling a little jittery even with a such a commanding lead.
Fedor Chalov slotted home to give CSKA the lead five minutes before half time, and when Kirill Nababkin made it two five minutes after the restart, it looked as though the comeback might just be on.
However, Arsenal settled their nerves with fifteen minutes remaining when Danny Welbeck latched on to Mohamed Elneny’s beautiful pass to give the visitors that crucial away goal. Aaron Ramsey levelled it up in stoppage time to ensure that Arsene Wenger’s side even managed to avoid defeat on the night, 2-2 to qualify 6-3 on aggregate.
Where the drama may have fizzled out in Moscow, it ramped up in Austria towards the end of the clash between Red Bull Salzburg and Lazio. Already 4-2 up form the first leg, it looked as though the Serie A side had wrapped up a place in the last four with a Ciro Immobile strike ten minutes into the second half.
Munas Dabbur equalised instantly, though, to ensure that the home side at least had a fighting chance.
That chance came with less than twenty minutes, remaining and Salzburg took full advantage with three goals in five minutes. Amadou Haidara, Hee-Chan Hwang and Stefan Lainer all struck in quick succession to leave Lazio shellshocked and, fifteen minutes later, dumped out of the competition. 4-1 to Red Bull Salzburg on the night, 6-5 on aggregate.
At the Stade Velodrome, Marseile were given a hill to climb early on when RB Leipzig went 1-0 up on the night through Bruma, putting the Bundesliga side 2-0 up on aggregate. Within seven minutes, however, Marseill had turned the game on its head with goals from Stefan Ilsanker (through his own net) and Bouna Sarr, befre Florian Thauvin put the Ligue 1 side 3-1 up (and head in the tie) seven minutes before half time.
In a game that swung wildly between both sides having the advantage, Jean-Kevin Augustin pulled one back for RB Leipzig early in the second half, before Dimitri Payet restored Marseille’s advatage on the hour mark.
With Leipzig keeper Peter Gulasci up for a corner in stoppage time, the home side broke free and Hiroki Sakai had an empty net in which to seal Marseille’s place in the next round.
In the night’s other quarter final, Atletico Madrid took a 2-0 advantage to Lisbon against Sporting CP. Freddy Montero scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game just before the half hour mark, and while the home side had their fair share of shots over the course of the match, Diego Simeone’s side progress Friday’s semi final draw 2-1 on aggregate.