Round of 32: Second LegBy: Dan | February 23rd, 2012
The Europa League was whittled down to 16 teams tonight. With the exception of Metalist Kharkivâ€™s 4-0 demolition of Red Bull Salzburg, the first leg matches were relatively evenly matched, so most teams went into today with at least some semblance of hope.
The first US televised match was the return leg of Athletic Bilbao – Lokomotiv Moscow. The Basque side were looking to overturn a 2-1 first leg defeat.
Both teams were up for it immediately, as the match started off with tackles flying in from both sides, and quite a few speculative attempts at goal.
As the first half progressed, the play remained aggressive, with a liberal helping of physicality, that the match officials were happy to allow, from both sides. Bilbao started to get the upper hand in terms of possession, but both goalkeepers remained untroubled.
In the latter stages of the first half, Bilbao started to put together some coherent attacking moves, but nothing that seriously challenged the massed defensive ranks of Lokomotiv, who saw out a scoreless first half.
Bilbao came out attacking in the second half, and came close to taking the lead with their first real chance of the game in the 51st minute. A corner found its way to Fernando Llorenteâ€™s head, but his effort flashed narrowly wide of the goal. Llorente threatened again from the air just two minutes later. This time his headed effort was grabbed out of the air by Lokomotiv keeper Guilherme.
The pair of close calls promted Lokomotiv to adopt an even tighter defensive posture, and rely on counterattacks. This strategy paid some dividends around the hour mark, when Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta was caught off guard during a Lokomotiv counterattack. The Venezuelan defender was forced to cynically drag down his man, and received his second yellow card of the game.
Any advantage Lokomotiv would gain from having an extra man was short lived, as ten man Bilbao broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute. A corner kick was headed on to the back post by Llorente, where an unmarked Iker Muniain came streaking in to finish.
The Athletic goal obviously prompted a role reversal in the match. Lokomotiv brought on more attacking players, while Bilbao set out to defend the 1-0 scoreline. Lokomotiv tested Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz in the 71st minute. Dmitri Sychev worked his way free inside the Athletic box and his deflected effort fell for Denis Glushakov on the edge of the area. Glushakovâ€™s low effort was covered in time by Iraizoz.
With Lokomotiv needing a goal to advance, and Bilbao down a man, the final minutes of the match were not nearly as tense as they should have been. Lokomotivâ€™s best chance came during stoppage time, when Victor Obinna was dispossessed and the ball found its way to the feet of Manuel da Costa. His shot was hastily taken, and it went well wide without troubling Iraizoz, as Bilbao moved on to earn a last 16 tie with Manchester United.
Having failed to defeat Valencia on one of the mythical cold, wet nights at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke apparently decided to pack it in for the second leg. Most of Stokeâ€™s usual first eleven was absent, as Valencia again needed just a single goal, courtesy of Jonas, to get the win, and end the Pottersâ€™ European campaign.
The Udinese – PAOK first leg was a cagey, goalless draw between two accomplished defensive sides. The second leg was all Udinese though. The Serie A side was up by two goals within fifteen minutes, and a second half penalty was the final nail in the coffin for PAOK.
Elsewhere in the early group of matches, clubs with a first leg advantage came through without any trouble. Hannover 96, who grabbed two late goals to defeat Club Brugge in the first leg, deflated the Belgian club with an early away goal. Trabzonspor were dispatched 4-1 by PSV. Twente ended Steaua Bucharestâ€™s hopes of a home final (admittedly, you would probably have to be the most optimistic Steaua fan on Earth to have harbored any realistic hopes of that.) A goalless draw against ten man Wisla Krakow was good enough for Standard Liege to progress on away goals.
Ajaxâ€™s trip to Old Trafford was the second live match for US television. Ajax would have some work to do if they had any hope of progressing. Two second half goals from Ashley Young and Jaiver Hernandez in Amsterdam gave Manchester United a considerable advantage going into the second leg.
United nearly put the tie to bed in the first minute of the match. A low bullet of a shot from Nani was fought off by Ajax keeper Kenneth Vermeer, and fortunately for him, there were no red clad players in the immediate vicinity to convert the rebound. Manchester United didnâ€™t have to wait much longer though. Hernandez was picked out with a long pass, and shook off Toby Alderweireld before firing low past Vermeer.
Manchester United were denied a chance to extend their lead in the 15th minute. Another long pass freed Hernandez, but his attempt to square the ball was turned aside by the last ditch, sliding intervention of Jan Vertonghen.
Fortunately, for neutrals, despite the hopelessness of Ajaxâ€™s situation, the match remained fairly open and flowing. Ajax kept pushing forward, as they attempted to get a goal back. United, for their part, seemed determined to inflict as much pain upon Ajax as possible, as there were threats around the Ajax box right up until halftime.
Ajax did get a goal back in the 37th minute. After the ball ping-ponged around the Manchester United box, it fell for Aras Ozbiliz, whose effort deflected off Phil Jones and beat David De Gea low to the right.
Ajax buoyed by their late, first half strike came out quite aggressively in search of the two goals they needed in the second half. Only the reflexes of De Gea kept a near post Siem de Jong header out in the 57th minute.
As the second half progressed, Ajax continued to have the lionâ€™s share of possession and kept up the pressure on Manchester United. It wasnâ€™t until the 67th minute that Manchester United were able to string an extended sequence of passes together.
Ajax were forced to throw caution to the wind and leave gaps at the back as the match wound down. Nani nearly finished off the tie in the 72nd minute thanks to the space offered by one of these gaps. His shot from the edge of the area bounced off the top of the crossbar though.
Ajax reasserted themselves, and struck again through in the 87th minute, when Alderweireld headed a curling Ozbiliz free kick past De Gea, to set up a nervy conclusion to the match. There was to be no improbable comeback result for Ajax though, as they did not threaten the United goal again. Overall, Ajax were the better side on the night, inflicted a rare European defeat on Manchester United at Old Trafford, and finally showed themselves at their best, but all of this will probably come as scant consolation for the Dutch side.
Elsewhere, clubs with first leg advantages had good nights. Atletico Madrid, Olympiacos, and Sporting Lisbon came away with 1-0 wins against their respective opponents, Lazio, Rubin Kazan, and Legia Warsaw to complete aggregate victories. Besiktas suffered a 1-0 defeat to last seasonâ€™s finalists Braga, but the 1-0 score was not enough for the Portuguese side, trailing 2-0 from the first leg, to go through.
Metalist Kharkiv completed the most decisive aggregate victory of the round, with a 4-1 home win over Red Bull Salzburg.
Anderlechtâ€™s Europa League campaign, which looked so promising after the Belgian club came through the group stage with a 100 percent record, ended in massive disappointment against AZ. Despite putting the Dutch side under heavy pressure for long periods, Anderlecht was unable to find a way through, and a goal on the break for AZ was enough to send Anderlecht crashing out.
Only one tie this round required extra time. Schalke were 1-0 up on the night and 2-1 on aggregate with just two minutes to go in their match against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen, who had been playing with ten men since the 61st minute. A poor clearance ended up at the feet of Frantisek Rajtoral, who fired past Timo Hidlebrand to force extra time. The Bundesliga club dominated the extra period from the outset, but couldnâ€™t convert their pressure into goals. Raul was especially hard done by when he hit the post in the 105th minute. Schalke finally broke through in the first minute of the second half of extra time. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar headed Chinedu Obasiâ€™s cross past Marek Cech for his second goal of the night and third of the tie to send Schalke through. The Dutch striker would add another for good measure in the final minute of stoppage time.
Manchester City 4 – FC Porto 0* (FC Porto 1 – Manchester City 6)
Manchester United 1 – Ajax Amsterdam 2 (Ajax 2 – Manchester United 3)
Athletic Bilbao 1 – Lokomotiv Moscow 0 (Lokomotiv Moscow 2 – Athletic Bilbao 2)
Metalist Kharkiv 4 – Red Bull Salzburg 1 (Salzburg 1 – Metalist Kharkiv 8)
Valencia 1 – Stoke City 0 (Stoke City 0 – Valencia 2)
Olympiacos 1 – Rubin Kazan 0 (Rubin Kazan 0 – Olympiacos 2)
Anderlecht 0 – AZ Alkmaar 1 (AZ 2 – Anderlecht 0)
Atletico Madrid 1 – SS Lazio 0 (Lazio 1 – Atletico Madrid 4)
Twente 1 – Steaua Bucharest 0 (Steaua Bucharest 0 – Twente 2)
Schalke 04 3 – Viktoria Plzen 1 (aet) (Viktoria Plzen 2 – Schalke 4)
Standard Liege 0 – Wisla Krakow 0 (Wisla Krakow 1 – Standard Liege 1)
Besiktas 0 – Braga 1 (Braga 1 – Besiktas 2)
PAOK 0 – Udinese 3 (Udinese 3 – PAOK 0)
PSV Eindhoven 4 – Trabzonspor 1 (Trabzonspor 2 – PSV 6)
Club Brugge 0 – Hannover 96 1 (Hannover 3 – Club Brugge 1)
Sporting CP 1 – Legia Warsaw 0 (Legia Warsaw 2 - Sporting CP 3)
*Match Played Wednesday 22 February