The second leg of the UEFA Europa League Quarter-finals held yesterday saw Eintracht Frankfurt eliminate Barcelona in stunning fashion at Camp Nou. West Ham United breezed past the challenge from Lyon while RB Leipzig secured a 2-0 victory over Atalanta. Only Rangers could defend their turf yesterday as they defeated Braga 3-1, overcoming their first-leg deficit to advance to the semi-finals.
With two German and two British sides left in the competition, the Europa League is set to match the Champions League in its intensity this season. Here we take a look at the four teams that have advanced to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals:
Eintracht Frankfurt secured a memorable victory at Camp Nou to the delight of their almost 30,000 travelling fans to advance to the semi-finals for the second time in four years. Xavi’s Barcelona were the favourites heading into the game, but goals from Filip Kostic and Rafael Borre gave the visitors an early advantage that Barcelona could not overcome.
Frankfurt’s domestic season has been miserable, to say the least, with Oliver Glasner’s men sitting ninth in the Bundesliga. With just two victories in their last five fixtures, they are within striking distance of falling to the bottom half of the table. Frankfurt lost out to Chelsea in the semi-finals of the 2019 Europa League and would be hoping to overcome the challenge from another English side as they face West Ham later this month.
Just like Villarreal’s stunning run in the Champions League, Eintracht Frankfurt’s run has given an emotional undertone to the Europa League. No German side has won the Europa League so far since the start of the century, and with Bayern Munich’s elimination from the Champions League, fans across Bundesliga will be rooting for the two German sides left in the Europa League to bring them a continental trophy.
Entering the fixture on the back of a 1-1 draw at home, RB Leipzig dominated the proceedings at Bergamo to advance to the semi-finals. An in-form Christopher Nkunku slotted home from close range to open the score for the visitors just 18 minutes into the game. Their discipline earned them another penalty late into the night, with Nkunku converting once again to give the Germans a 2-0 win.
The Red Bulls underwent a succession crisis at the helm since Julian Nagelsmann left for Bayern Munich at the start of the season – with Jesse Marsch replaced by Domenic Todesco mid-way in December. RB Leipzig are having a good run in the Bundesliga since then – with 51 points from their 29 games, they are just one point shy of overtaking Leverkusen in third. The Red Bulls haven’t lost a match since their loss to Bayern Munich back in February, and are likely to secure a Champions League spot for the next season.
Christopher Nkunku has been the main man for RB Leipzig this season – with the French youngster striking 30 goals from 43 appearances across competitions so far. The Red Bulls have previously reached the Champions League semi-finals two years ago and would be hoping to brush away the challenge from the Rangers to make it to the finals of a continental tournament.
WEST HAM UNITED
The Hammers reached their first major European semi-final since 1976 as they breezed past Lyon on Thursday. Entering the fixture on the back of a 1-1 draw in the first leg, David Moyes’ men were outstanding throughout the night. Craig Dawson put the visitors ahead in the 38th minute, as Declan Rice added to the score with a precise finish just before half-time. Jarrod Bowen’s strike soon after restart effectively decided the contest, as Lyon showed little intent for the rest of the game.
Arsenal’s resurgence in the Premier League has put the next season’s Europa League spot in doubt for the Hammers. They are currently undergoing a rough patch – winning just two of their last five Premier League fixtures and losing three. A tough schedule awaits David Moyes – as the Hammers face Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City over the coming weeks.
The trio of Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio and Said Benrahma remain the key for West Ham’s chances who boast of a relatively weak defensive unit. The Hammers won their only major European title all the way back in 1965 and would be hoping to lay their hands on a trophy to showcase their remarkable rise in recent years.
Rangers’ European dream lives on as Kemar Roofe’s extra-time goal put the Scottish side into the semi-finals. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Rangers got a dream start in front of a thunderous home crowd as James Tavernier sent the ball home just two minutes into the game. Tavernier added another goal to the tally in the first half through a penalty kick, before Braga came back into the game courtesy of David Carmo’s goal.
Rangers will now face RB Leipzig in the semi-finals – a formidable opponent by any means. But the Scottish side have the ability to dig deep and have shown the discipline required on the field to prevent opponents from running away with the score. The last time Rangers reached a European semi-final was in their run-up to the finals of 2008, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men will be dreaming of a triumph once more.
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