The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

UEFA Europa League: AC Milan crash out to Olympiacos; Sevilla, Villarreal, Genk advance

Associated Press Thursday, 13 December 2018, 23:18 Last update: about 7 months ago

Milan are out of the Europa League after a 3-1 defeat to Olympiacos, but it was decided by an extremely controversial penalty.

The Rossoneri could afford to lose and still qualify, albeit not by two clear goals, as they visited Athens for the final Europa League group game. Along with long-term absentees Alessio Romagnoli, Mattia Caldara, Giacomo Bonaventura and Lucas Biglia, Suso was not risked due to a muscular issue, starting Samu Castillejo instead. Olympiacos had to do without Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, Yassine Meriah, Dimitris Nikolaou, Nahuel Leiva, Yaya Toure, Ahmed Hassan and Alexandros Voilis.

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Pepe Reina had to sprint off his line to clear from Miguel Angel Guerrero within 20 seconds, as a long ball had surprised Cristian Zapata.

Hakan Calhanoglu fired straight at Jose Sa, while Ignazio Abate made a crucial interception to stop Guerrero nodding in from six yards.

Patrick Cutrone's through ball released Gonzalo Higuain, though Jose Sa rushed off his line to parry at his feet. On the resulting corner, Cristian Zapata's header into the ground was palmed over the bar.

Reina completely missed a corner on 26 minutes, but Guilherme's follow-up was charged down by Cristian Zapata. Franck Kessie stung the goalkeeper's gloves at the near post, but Reina also got down well to palm a Fortounis free kick round the upright.

Straight after the restart, Giannis Fetfatzidis cut inside to curl just wide of the far post with his left boot from the edge of the penalty area. Kessie did the same with a ferocious strike skimming the upright, but Calhanoglu wasted a golden opportunity on the counter.

Reina smothered an impressive Omar Elabdellaoui volley, but Milan were caught out on a corner.

It was taken short, Higuain back in defence charged down the initial header, but Pape Abou Cisse turned in the rebound.

Milan came pouring forward to get it back on track, opening up huge spaces at both ends. Cutrone and Higuain fired just wide, but Reina performed a desperate save on Fortounis and the Podence follow-up was cleared off the line by Cristian Zapata.

Olympiacos got the goal they needed to go 2-0 up with a stroke of luck, as the Guilherme shot from distance took a huge deflection off Cristian Zapata's ankle to loop over Reina and into the far top corner.

However, within 110 seconds he had made up for it, his header from a corner squirming under Jose Sa and only cleared after it had crossed the line. With this result, Milan would still be qualified, but they couldn't lose 3-1.

Abate made a heroic block on Guerrero from point-blank range after Castillejo had been left behind, but Olympiacos received a very soft penalty for Abate having an arm on the shoulder of Vasilis Torosidis. Fortounis converted by sending Reina the wrong way and suddenly Olympiacos were in a position to qualify.

The hosts tried every trick in the book to waste time, from goalkeeper Jose Sa needing treatment for cramp to the ball boys throwing extra balls out every time Milan attacked.

 

Sevilla, Villarreal, Genk advance in Europa League

Sevilla, Villarreal and Genk qualified for the knockout rounds of the Europa League on Thursday, the final night of group-stage matches.

Rapid Vienna, Malmo, Krasnodar, Rennes and BATE also advanced, with the final three spots in the next phase to be determined in the remaining matches later Thursday.

Sevilla advanced from Group J after a 3-0 win over Krasnodar, which also advanced. Villarreal defeated Spartak Moscow 2-0 to progress from Group G with Rapid, which scored in the 84th minute to win 1-0 and knock out Rangers.

Genk cruised to the next phase with a 4-0 rout of Sarpsborg in Group I, and Malmo also made it with a 1-0 away victory over Besiktas.

Rennes' new coach, Julien Stephan, celebrated a 2-0 victory in Group K and a spot in the next round by knocking out Astana.

Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea, Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kiev, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahce, Lazio, Real Betis, Salzburg, Sporting, Zenit and Zurich already booked their places in the round of 32 earlier in the competition.

Eight teams knocked out of the Champions League — Benfica, Club Brugge, Galatasaray, Inter Milan, Napoli, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia and Viktoria Plzen — also qualified for the round of 32 by finishing in third in their groups.

The draw for the round of 32 will be held on Monday, an hour after the Champions League draw is held.

Chelsea failed to keep a perfect record, but Willian and Olivier Giroud salvaged a 2-2 draw against Vidi by scoring from free kicks.

Here's a look at Thursday's action:

 

TIGHT GROUPS

All eight teams were in a position to advance from tightly contested groups G and I.

Samuel Chukwueze was in the right place for Villarreal when he scored from a deflected shot in the first half, and Karl Toko Ekambi doubled the lead from a tight angle in the second as Villarreal topped Group G with 10 points.

Rangers had the support from their fans in Vienna, but substitute Dejan Ljubicic scored six minutes from time as Rapid advanced, also with 10 points.

In Group I, Genk needed a draw against Sarpsborg but refused to play it safe. Forward Zinho Gano needed just three minutes to volley home an opener, and midfielder Joseph Paintsil collected a precise pass from captain Alejandro Pozuelo to calmly to make it 2-0 five minutes later. Sander Berge and Joseph Aidoo put it beyond doubt with a pair of goals scored within three minutes in the second half.

In Istanbul, Marcus Antonsson stunned Besiktas with a second-half goal to send Malmo through with nine points.

Besiktas' efforts to equalize, which would have been enough to advance, took a hit when Ricardo Quaresma received a red card in the 65th minute.

 

CHELSEA HELD

Willian was the only player who started in the Premier League victory over Manchester City on Saturday to start on Thursday, and he opened the scoring from a free kick after half an hour.

Ethan Ampadu headed in an own goal two minutes later in his European debut, marking only the second time Chelsea had conceded in the Europa League.

Vidi moved ahead in the 56th minute when Loic Nego finished a counter with a precise volley, but Giroud, a second-half substitute, curled in an equalizer in the 75th minute.

Chelsea topped Group L with 16 points. BATE became the second team to advance from the group with nine points after a 3-1 win at PAOK.

 

SEVILLA SAFE

Wissam Ben Yedder made sure to ease Sevilla's worries with two goals in the first 10 minutes, exploiting a defensive mistake five minutes in and controlling a long ball before scoring past goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk five minutes later for his fifth group-stage goal.

Krasnodar was reduced to 10 men early in the second after Cristian Ramirez's handball on the goal line stopped Andre Silva's header. Ever Banega increased the lead by scoring on the ensuing penalty.

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