The UEFA Europa League may only be in its sixth season, but it has already provided its share of knockout round drama. UEFA.com looks back on six classic ties ahead of the start of the 2014/15 round of 32 on 19 February.
2009/10: Valencia CF 1-1, 4-4 SV Werder Bremen (5-5 agg)
A 1-1 draw in the first leg at Mestalla offered little indication of what was to follow as this last-16 tie concluded in Germany. Valencia's David Villa was the star of the show, breaking the deadlock after three minutes and going on to claim a hat-trick. But Werder would not lie down. Any time the Spanish side thought they were in the clear, Bremen would reappear like an all but invincible if vanquished horror movie villain.
"It was the craziest game I've ever played in," said Villa after his side had hung on for an away-goals win following Claudio Pizarro's equaliser six minutes from the end. "There were so many chances to score, there should have been even more goals. It was like playing when I was a kid at school."
2009/10: Fulham FC 1-3, 4-1 Juventus (5-4 agg)
Fulham were meant to throw in the towel after losing 3-1 in Turin in the opening instalment of this round of 16 tie. Indeed, when David Trezeguet put the Bianconeri in front at Craven Cottage inside two minutes, Roy Hodgson's side looked doomed. Bobby Zamora struck back soon enough and Fabio Cannavaro was dismissed inside the half-hour, but Fulham still needed two more goals merely to force extra time.
Zoltán Gera got the first just before half-time and the second soon after but the outright winner required something special; Clint Dempsey duly provided it with a sumptuous chip. "I was wondering whether to shoot or try to dink it towards the far post," said Dempsey. "So I just went with it. Nine times out of ten I don't think I'd have hit it as well as I did."
2009/10: RSC Anderlecht 1-3, 4-3 Hamburger SV (5-6 agg)
Pushed all the way by PSV Eindhoven in the round of 32, Hamburg looked set for an easier ride in the last 16 as goals from Joris Mathijsen, Ruud van Nistelrooy and captain David Jarolím earned a healthy 3-1 first-leg lead. Indeed they looked to be cruising into the quarter-finals after Jerome Boateng's 42nd-minute opener in Brussels, only for Romelu Lukaku's header and a Matías Suárez penalty to put Anderlecht ahead before the break.
Marcell Jansen's early second-half strike dampened home hopes of a remarkable comeback, but efforts from Lucas Biglia and Mbark Boussoufa put Anderlecht just a goal away from qualification. With Hamburg on the rack, Mladen Petrić's cool finish put the tie to bed once and for all. "Incredible," midfielder Marcell Jansen told UEFA.com. "It was a crazy game."
2010/11: Villarreal CF 1-5, 3-2 FC Porto (4-7 agg)
Still riding the crest of a wave following their 10-3 aggregate triumph over FC Spartak Moskva in the quarter-finals, Porto all but secured a place in the Dublin showpiece with a 5-1 first-leg win at home to Villarreal. Though the Yellow Submarine were in front at the interval, they could scarcely have prepared for Radamel Falcao, who scored four goals in a stunning second-half performance.
"My job is to score the goals which take the stress away from the team, to make matches easier," Falcao said after the second leg at El Madrigal, when late goals from Joan Capdevila and Giuseppe Rossi restored some respectability to the scoreline. "I just need to keep doing that." He did.
2011/12: Athletic Club 3-2, 2-1 Manchester United FC (5-3 agg)
This competition, to some observers, was there for the taking for United after transfering from the UEFA Champions League. AFC Ajax were dispatched in the round of 32, but Sir Alex Ferguson's side had not bargained for such enterprising opponents in the last 16. Wayne Rooney hit two at Old Trafford but Athletic scored three times in between to record a first win on English soil.
Fernando Llorente – with a glorious volley – and Óscar De Marcos were on the mark in a similarly energetic performance in Bilbao, meaning Rooney's late drive was mere consolation. "We played two fantastic legs," concluded De Marcos. "We really enjoyed ourselves, each and every one of us played and combined well on the pitch – that was the key."
2013/14: Sevilla FC 2-0, 1-3 Valencia CF (3-3 agg)
Sevilla lifted the trophy for the third time in 2014 but it is easy to forget how close they came to being knocked out. Four minutes into added time in the return it was Valencia who were set to line up against SL Benfica in Turin after an incredible comeback. Stéphane Mbia had other ideas, though, planting a firm header from a flick-on to send the visitors through. "There aren't words to explain tonight," said Ivan Rakitić, summing it up nicely.
That it came to this was no surprise – both teams had history for drama. Sevilla needed penalties to get past city-rivals Real Betis Balompié in the round of 16 while Valencia overturned a 3-0 first-leg defeat by FC Basel 1893 in the last eight. Sevilla's 2-0 win at home was therefore no guarantee and so it proved as the lead was wiped out inside 26 minutes. Jéremy Mathieu's second-half strike looked to have won it before Mbia struck.
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