Talking points from Europa League second legs
Friday, 27 February 2015
Five Italian sides are through, including Torino FC, FC Dinamo Moskva have slipped under the radar, Everton FC fly the flag and Legia Warszawa missed their leader.
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Viola's Turin curse
The 1990 UEFA Cup was snatched from ACF Fiorentina in a final defeat by Serie A rivals Juventus. Last year it was the same club from Turin who ended their progress in the UEFA Europa League round of 16. When the draw for the last 16 is made, a return to Piedmont will arguably be the last thing the Viola want after seeing off Tottenham Hotspur FC, even if their opponents this time around could be Juve's less glamorous neighbours Torino FC ... Ben Gladwell
• Fiorentina 2-0 Tottenham (agg: 3-1)
• Salah stars
... or for that matter FC Internazionale Milano, SSC Napoli or AS Roma as five of the 16 remaining contenders are Italian. Torino's march past Athletic Club was arguably the most impressive as no Serie A team had previously won at San Mamés. "We wrote an important page in the great history of 'Toro'," said coach Giampiero Ventura, who led Torino back to Europe after a 20-year wait.
For Ventura, 67, this is the first European campaign in a coaching career that started in 1976 in UC Sampdoria's youth ranks after a serious injury curtailed his playing days. Despite losing Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci – who combined for 35 league goals last term when Torino finished seventh – the Granata are flying again in Serie A, where they are 11 games unbeaten. The coach celebrated his 100th top-flight fixture with Torino last Sunday, but the real gift arrived four days later in Bilbao. A deserved one. Paolo Menicucci
• Athletic 2-3 Torino (agg: 4-5)
• Mancini hails Guarín, Ljajić on Roma win
Dinamo happy to be 'the joker team'
FC Dinamo Moskva have slipped under the radar in this UEFA Europa League campaign, but their 3-1 victory against RSC Anderlecht was their seventh in eight matches in the tournament, excluding qualifying. Defender Christopher Samba says they feel like "the joker team" because they are always capable of causing a surprise, while they are unknown by many of the higher-profile sides in Europe.
With players of the calibre of Aleksandr Kokorin, Mathieu Valbuena and Igor Denisov, Dinamo certainly have the quality. Also, with yesterday's second leg being just Dinamo's second competitive game of 2015 due to the Russian winter break, expect Stanislav Cherchesov's squad to keep improving. Richard van Poortvliet
• Dinamo 3-1 Anderlecht (agg: 3-1)
•Samba: Victory deserved
Last men standing
"Being the last British team in the Europa League is a very satisfying achievement," said Roberto Martínez after his Everton FC side succeeded where neighbours Liverpool FC, Tottenham and Celtic FC failed by getting to the last 16. If news of Liverpool's demise prompted a roar of excitement around Goodison Park during last night's triumph over BSC Young Boys, the chief cause for optimism entering the next round is the form of Romelu Lukaku.
It is easy to forget Lukaku is only 21, but he reached 100 career goals with his double against Young Boys. Since his club-record signing last summer, the forward has not always had it easy during a patchy domestic campaign for the Toffees, but he has now hit a rich vein of form. Scorer of a first-leg hat-trick against YB, he is the leading marksman still active in the UEFA Europa League with six goals – and has 15 overall for the season.
"It was a difficult start to the season for him from a physical point of view after the World Cup, but now we have been used to seeing a very consistent Romelu," added Martínez. If Everton are to advance further, the Belgian international will almost certainly have a big part to play. Simon Hart
• Everton 3-1 Young Boys (agg: 7-2)
• Beşiktaş celebrate Liverpool demise
Radović departure shakes Legia
Legia Warszawa will not be in the final in their home city after two losses to AFC Ajax, going down 3-0 in the Warsaw second leg. One reason for their elimination was the unexpected departure of attacking talisman Miroslav Radović. After eight years with Legia, he left the day before the first leg for Chinese second division outfit Hebei China Fortune FC.
Legia fans are in no doubt that 'Rado' could have made a difference against Ajax. Not only did he score lots of important goals for the Polish title holders in Europe, he is also the best foreign marksman in Ekstraklasa history with 53 in 228 matches. As recently as November, Radović signed a new deal with Legia, saying this is "a contract for life". That was the intention, but the offer from Hebei's Serbian coach Radomir Antić was too good to turn down. Legia's players admitted they were shocked by Radović’s absence from the squad last week in Amsterdam and they did not manage to make up for his exit. Piotr Koźmiński