UEFA Europa League talking points
Friday, April 24, 2015
Sevilla FC revert to edge-of-the-seat type, FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk do it again, Super Mario strikes, Rafael Benítez's treble chance and hope for the vanquished.
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Sevilla can take rough with the smooth
The UEFA Europa League brings the best out of Sevilla FC, as three titles in the past nine years attests. Yet they have always had to overcome adversity along the way, a test of their mettle. It took an extra-time goal from the late Antonio Puerta for the Andalusians to reach the 2006 final at FC Schalke 04's expense; the following year saw an extra-time victory over FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 while the final went all the way to penalties.
Last season broke new ground for Lazarus acts, Sevilla recovering from a 2-0 home defeat, surviving two penalty shoot-outs and needing a 94th-minute semi-final winner from Stéphane Mbia. This term has been rather more comfortable, so credit to FC Zenit for giving them a fright in Russia on Thursday. The tie was heading for extra time until Kevin Gameiro's late goal eased visiting nerves. Sevilla may be better for it.
• Sevilla 2-2 Zenit
• Mbia at heart for Sevilla
Dnipro are here on merit
Myron Markevych told his players he did not want penalties and FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk eventually obliged him as Yevhen Shakhov scored on 82 minutes against Club Brugge KV in Kyiv to take the Ukrainian side through to a first-ever European semi-final. "Few believed we could get this far," said midfielder Valeriy Fedorchuk, but last-four opponents SSC Napoli will not take lightly a team with a happy knack of just doing enough – and with the scalps of AFC Ajax and Olympiacos FC to their name already this campaign.
• Dnipro 1-0 Club Brugge
• Team of the week
Fiorentina need to take their chances
There was a moment towards the end at the Stadio Artemio Franchi when you wondered if FC Dynamo Kyiv, down to ten men since the 40-minute mark and comprehensively outplayed, might grab an equaliser to force extra time. The Viola had 25 efforts at goal to the visitors' four, but it was not until the 25th that Juan Manuel Vargas sealed it. As coach Vincenzo Montella said, "When you play like we did, you should not have to struggle until the very end." They cannot be so profligate against Sevilla. Paolo Menicucci
• Fiorentina 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv
• Montella proud of misfiring Fiorentina
There is hope … Super Mario
Mario Gomez is now the fourth-highest German goalscorer in UEFA club competition after notching No40 at home to Dynamo Kyiv, surpassing the not insignificant figure of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. There was an element of fortune as Joaquín's vicious centre bounced off his knee and went in, but Gomez was sanguine in his assessment. "God wanted me to score like that as two or three minutes earlier I had slipped when through on goal," he said.
Montella, a former striker himself, was full of praise for a man who was perhaps only playing because of injury to Khouma Babacar. "He stayed positive and was there just in case, so it was nothing to do with luck." After being tormented by injuries since joining Fiorentina in 2013, are things looking up for the former FC Bayern München forward? The Viola certainly hope so. Paolo Menicucci
• Fiorentina 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv
• Germany's top performers
Benítez's treble ambition
Rafael Benítez's dream of become the first coach to lead three clubs to UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League glory, matching Giovanni Trapattoni's record haul of three wins in the process, is very much alive. Beating an impressive VfL Wolfsburg side 6-3 on aggregate made a real statement, even if – as he reiterated last night – his future in Naples remains he doubt. He departed Valencia CF after guiding them to this title in 2004 and the same happened at Chelsea FC in 2013. Surely lightning will not strike thrice? Paolo Menicucci
Beaten sides still have plenty to play for
Dynamo Kyiv, Wolfsburg, Club Brugge and Zenit are out but cannot afford to be too down – their domestic campaigns are at a crucial juncture. Dynamo are five points ahead with six games to go in Ukraine and poised to end FC Shakhtar Donetsk's run of five championships; the pair may well meet in the cup final too, having avoided each other in the last four.
Club Brugge lifted the Belgian Cup last month, their first trophy in eight years, and are handily placed to complete the double. Zenit are eight points clear with six matches left as they target a first title since 2012, while in Germany Wolfsburg are second and on course for their best Bundesliga finish since winning it in 2008/09. Dieter Hecking's men are also through to the semi-finals of the German Cup – a prize they have never landed.