This season’s Europa League has already thrown up a number of shocks – not least, West Ham United’s progression, having previously knocked out five-time winners, Sevilla in the round of 16.
And it’s the Spanish city that plays host to this year’s final on May 18th. According to the Betdaq exchange, RB Leipzig are outright favourites to lift the trophy – which would mark the first European success in their history.
However, more excitingly – we could see an all-German or all-British final, with Leipzig joining Eintracht Frankfurt, West Ham and Rangers in the final four. But before we reach the semi-finals, let’s take a look back at how these teams secured their place in the penultimate round.
Red Bulls steamroll Atalanta
A Christopher Nkunku double put the result to bed in the second leg, as RB Leipzig came from behind to win 3-1 on aggregate, over Atalanta.
In Leipzig, Luis Muriel had put the Italian side ahead with his stunning goal, before the hosts missed a penalty – Juan Musso saving André Silva’s tame effort. Sometimes you need a bit of luck, and the Germans were back in the tie when Davide Zappacosta stuck a leg out and put the ball in his own net to set up an exciting return fixture.
Nkunku has scored 30 goals in all competitions this season for Leipzig, and he secured the result with a late penalty, after he was brought down by the keeper.
Barcelona bundled out of Europe
The Spanish giants left it late to stage a comeback, but it wasn’t to be – against a Frankfurt side who currently sit 10th in the Bundesliga. After the first leg ended in a draw – and with the away goals rule scrapped – Barcelona should have let home advantage pay.
However, it was Frankfurt who flew out the traps at the Camp Nou – and within four minutes, they were awarded a penalty which Filip Kostić duly put away. Before the first half was out, a long-range wonder goal from Rafael Santos Borre extended their lead, and after the break, Kostić scored his second of the night.
With five minutes remaining, Barcelona attempted to hit back – first Sergio Busquets had a goal ruled off by VAR, before he notched in the first minute of additional time. And while Frankfurt were reduced to 10 men, and Memphis Depay netted a 90+11 minute penalty, it wasn’t enough.
Happy Hammers seal semi-final
There was a goal flurry in France as West Ham knocked out Lyon to secure their place in the final four of the Europa League – with three goals in 11 minutes either side of the halftime interval settling things.
The Hammers had taken the lead in the first leg, through Jarrod Bowen, only for Tanguy Ndombele – on loan from fellow London outfit, Tottenham Hotspur – to set up an exciting second leg.
David Moyes’ team secured their first European semi-final place for 46 years with a trio of English players silencing a usually raucous Parc Olympique Lyonnais. Craig Dawson and Declan Rice scored within six minutes of each other, before the break, and Bowen’s exquisite finish from 20 yards wrapped things up, three minutes into the second period.
Ibrox erupts as the Roofe is on fire
Braga travelled to Rangers with the advantage, having won on home soil by a single goal to nil. However, Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men were all fired up, and back on level terms almost immediately in the second leg. It took all of two minutes for James Tavernier to strike a low shot beyond the Braga keeper, and the captain led by example, adding a second on the night – this time from the penalty spot, as Vitor Tormena hauled down Kemar Roofe and subsequently, was sent off.
In what proved to be an exciting second half, Braga pulled a goal back seven minutes from the end, with David Carmo’s powerful header ensuring the match would go to extra time. Rangers won it in the first 15 minutes, as Roofe was in the right place at the right time to coolly slot home from Joe Aribo’s cross. The night went from bad to worse for Braga who had Iuri Medeiros sent off, after he petulantly squared up to the referee and at the final whistle, Ibrox erupted.
Image credit: UEFA, CC BY-SA 4.0 Licensed via Wikimedia Commons