A full house for Spanish teams in the Europa League tonight, all four winning their respective first leg ties without letting in a single goal! Defending champions Sevilla beat Molde 3-0, Llorente netting a brace either side of half time before Gameiro wrapped things up. A late free kick from Denis Suárez gave Villarreal a 1-0 victory over Napoli, and later in the evening Athletic Bilbao won 0-1 at Olympique Marseille, Aduríz the spectacular scorer there shortly after the restart. Meanwhile Valencia thrashed Rapid Vienna 6-0, Santi Mina scoring two himself and setting up three more for Parejo, Negredo and André Gomes before the break, and Rodrigo completing the set right at the end. They couldn’t have given coach Gary Neville a better 41st birthday present! (18.02.16)
Valencia have finally got their act together after a bad start under coach Gary Neville, a 6-0 victory over Rapid Vienna all but mathematically sealing their place in the last sixteen. Before half time they had already scored five, a new record for the Europa League, with Santi Mina scoring the first and the third, and setting up Parejo, Negredo and Gomes for the other three. After the restart Jelic fired a shot wide and then tested Mat Ryan with a header, but Barragán went close, and Rodrigo completed the “set” in the dying minutes. As chance would have it, it was Neville’s 41st birthday. They couldn’t have given him a better present!
A spectacular goal from Aduríz early in the second half gave Athletic Bilbao a 0-1 victory at Olympique Marseille in the first leg of their “round of 32” tie! The veteran striker struck a first time volley past Mandada from over 30 yards out after Sabin headed back a long Herrerín clearance to give the Basque team the advantage for next week’s second leg. Up to then chances had been few and far between, the best a first half shot by Fletcher which was blocked by a defender, and an effort by Williams just wide of the post soon after the restart. Aduríz tried his luck a couple of times after that, but Michel’s side came closer to an equalizer, Thauvin firing two shots just past the post and Fletcher heading wide near the end.
Defending champions Sevilla are looking good for a place in the next round of the Europa League after a 3-0 victory over Molde. Like Valencia, the Andalusians had dropped down from the Champions League after finishing third in their group, and they got off to a shaky start, Elyounoussi and Gulbrandsen going close, and Soria having to turn a shot from Gulbrandsen for a corner. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team hardly got near the local goal after that though, Banega firing a couple of shots wide before Fernando Llorente opened the scoring with ten minutes to go to the break. The ex Bilbao and Juventus striker headed just past the post soon afterwards, and some four minutes in to the second half he made it two with a shot on the turn after Coke put him through. Coke himself hit the bar minutes later, and with twenty minutes to go substitute Gameiro latched on to Vitolo’s pass to drill a shot under keeper Horvath for the third. Gameiro and N’Zonzi could have added to the lead after that, but Emery’s side had already done enough to take a comfortable lead to the second leg in Norway next week.
A late free kick from Denis Suárez gave Villarreal a 1-0 victory over Napoli in the first leg of their Europa League tie. Marcelino’s side had the hardest draw of any of the La Liga teams, although with one eye on the Italian league title, visiting coach Sarri left the likes of top scorer Higuaín on the bench. There were several well know faces in the line-up though, none less than keeper Pepe Reina, who made a brilliant recovery to save from Soldado early on. Higuaín’s replacement Gabbiardini went close a couple of times before the break, and Spanish international Callejón headed just wide soon after the restart. Bakambu fired a good chance into the stands though later on in the second half, and with eight minutes to go Suárez struck his free kick in off the crossbar to make it twelve games without defeat for his team.