Europa Conference League round of 16 first legs: Fiorentina and West Ham win, Villarreal held
Thursday, 9 March 2023
Fiorentina eked out a narrow home win, West Ham earned a bigger victory away, and Villarreal were pegged back in the UEFA Europa Conference League round of 16 openers.
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Fiorentina beat Sivasspor, Michail Antonio helped West Ham cruise to victory in Cyprus and Anders Dreyer scored a beauty as Anderlecht held Villarreal.
UEFA.com rounds up the round of 16 openers.
AEK Larnaca 0-2 West Ham
Two first-half goals from Michail Antonio put the Hammers in charge of the tie against spirited hosts in Cyprus. The 32-year-old nodded in Saïd Benrahma's cross on 36 minutes and his thumping drive made it 2-0 before the break. AEK pushed hard for a way back but Lucas Paquetá ought to have put the visitors out of sight late on, Kenan Pirić denying him one-on-one.
West Ham have won seven out of seven in the Europa Conference League this season, plus two more in qualifying.
Sheriff 0-1 Nice
Teenager Ayoub Amraoui scored his first Nice goal as the Ligue 1 outfit claimed a narrow victory. Making his first Europa Conference League start, the 18-year-old defender collected Khephren Thuram's pass on the left before beating goalkeeper Maksym Koval with a looping effort. Sheriff full-back Armel Zohouri had a late goal disallowed for offside.
Amraoui was making only his third start for Nice, having made his senior debut late last month.
Anderlecht 1-1 Villarreal
Anders Dreyer pulled out a magnificent finish from distance to earn the home side a draw on a rainy night in Brussels, the Dane beating 40-year-old Pepe Reina with a swerving, dipping effort on 57 minutes. Villarreal had taken the lead in the first half after Samuel Chukwueze's ball across the box invited Manu Trigueros to control and finish.
Villarreal are unbeaten in their last nine round of 16 matches in UEFA club competitions (W6 D3).
The second legs of these ties take place on 15–16 March; the away goals rule has been abolished. Winners of the ties earn a place in the quarter-final draw on Friday 17 March, which is an open draw with no seedings, while the eight losers will no longer be involved in 2022/23 European competition.
Fiorentina 1-0 Sivasspor
The home side failed to make the most of some golden first-half opportunities, going closest when Gaetano Castrovilli's acrobatic effort came back off the bar. Viola pressure told when substitute Antonín Barák's close-range shot took a wicked deflection off defender Dimitrios Goutas on its way in. Sivasspor's Max Gradel was shown a red card late on.
This was Fiorentina's first home clean sheet in the Europa Conference League this season.
Lech Poznań 2-0 Djurgården
A goal in each half gave the Polish side a significant cushion as they head to Sweden for the decider. Joel Pereira's free-kick picked out Antonio Milić in the box, and the Croatian defender headed Lech in front on 39 minutes. The home side doubled their advantage with eight minutes left on the clock, Adriel Ba Loua playing in Filip Marchwiński to finish.
Lech have won eight of their previous nine home European matches this season (D1).
Basel 2-2 Slovan Bratislava
Slovan could not match their 2-0 win at Basel in this season's group stage, but can head back to Bratislava reasonably happy after twice coming from behind. Zeki Amdouni's sixth-minute opener was cancelled out by Jurij Medvedĕv, and while Amdi Zeqiri restored the hosts' advantage before the break, Malik Abubakari levelled again with 20 minutes to go.
The sides drew 3-3 in their previous encounter in Slovakia.
Gent 1-1 İstanbul Başakşehir
The tie remains finely balanced after a rain-soaked first leg in Belgium. Both goals were scored before half-time, Stefano Okaka putting the visitors in front with a brilliant glancing header from Serdar Gürler's cross. Gent equalised thanks to Gift Orban, who bundled the ball in when Volkan Babacan failed to deal with Hugo Cuypers' initial effort.
İstanbul Başakşehir have lost only one of their 13 European matches this season (W8 D4).
Lazio 1-2 AZ Alkmaar (Tuesday)
The hosts bossed the opening stages and were good value for their lead courtesy of Pedro Rodríguez's improvised finish. Yet AZ dug in, pressed hard and got their reward through Vangelis Pavlidis (45) and ex-Milan left-back Milos Kerkez (62). "This was a bit of a fluke result," rued Lazio boss Maurizio Sarri. "We created a lot of chances and conceded from both of theirs."
AZ have won 11 of their 13 European matches this season.