It was a very busy night of Europa League action as the first legs of all four quarter-finals were played with Barcelona and West Ham
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The first legs of the Europa League quarter-finals took place on Thursday night, with no shortage of action or conversation.
Barcelona are favorites to win this year’s competition, which has been at its best in recent months under new coach Xavi Hernandez as the Catalans take on Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt. There was also much British interest in both west ham and Rangers in action, taking on Lyon and Braga respectively.
Elsewhere there was a tantalizing game as German club RB Leipzig drew 1-1 at home to Serie A high-flyers Atalanta. Mirror Football takes a look at the five talking points from Thursday’s games, with goals and red cards in the main games.
Barca changers make the difference
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For most of the opening hour in Germany, Barcelona were solid second best against Eintracht Frankfurt – who sit ninth in the Bundesliga. The home side played with an energy and intensity that the Catalan giants struggled with.
Ansgar Knauff’s rasping shot gave Frankfurt a deserved lead just after the break after a first half in which they missed a number of glorious opportunities, with Djibril Sow at their most wasteful – firing when well placed in the box.
However, just after the hour mark, Barca introduced Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele, with both players involved in the glorious set-up of the equalizer four minutes after coming on. Both were involved in a scintillating one-touch passing game that slashed Frankfurt’s defense and allowed Ferran Torres to run on target and level.
Frankfurt keeps the draw alive
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Struggling in the Bundesliga this season, Frankfurt have been a clear underdog against in-form Barca, who haven’t lost a La Liga game since early December. Still, the German side have every chance to cause an upset at the Camp Nou next week.
In the last 15 minutes, they had to hold out a bit due to late pressure from the Blaugrana, who stepped up after a red card for the home side’s defender Tuta, who was sent off after a second bookable offense. However, despite many eye-catching connecting games in the last third, Barca struggled to regularly break through the Frankfurt defence.
Oliver Glasner’s side have already won in Spain this year after clinching an impressive 2-1 away win at Real Betis in the preliminary round. Betis are just four points behind Barca in La Liga, leaving Frankfurt confident of landing another KO next week.
Hammer’s anger at red
West Ham enjoyed their biggest game of the season so far with a challenging quarter-final game against French giants Lyon. The game was finely balanced in the first half and played against the backdrop of a great atmosphere at the London stadium, but the mood turned momentarily just before half-time.
Hammers defender Aaron Creswell was shown a straight red card after putting his arm over visiting striker Moussa Dembele, who had run towards goal – but apparently ran wide of goal at an angle. While the decision may have turned out to be technically correct, it was remarkably soft and understandably infuriated the home side.
Dembele’s wink at the Lyon bench after the incident did little to ease the sense of injustice among home fans. David Moyes was so furious at the incident that he verbally abused German official Felix Zwayer on his way from the pitch to half-time – for which the Scot was cautioned.
Ndombele is writing the screenplay
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Jarrod Bowen gave 10-man West Ham an early lead in the second to remove the roof of the London stadium, but it was probably always a matter of time before the visitors could capitalize on their numerical advantage.
Lyon slowly started to dominate possession and territory in the game so it was no big surprise that they were able to equalize midway through the second half. The frustrating thing for the Hammers was the identity of the goalscorer: Tanguy Ndombele. The central midfielder is currently back on loan at the Ligue 1 club Tottenham – who he has been fighting for since joining in 2019 – but was on hand to tap home after Alphonse Areola failed to clear a low cross into the area.
West Ham held on to a draw which, given the circumstances, wasn’t a bad result for France ahead of next week’s second leg.
Gers crashed in Braga
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Rangers have enjoyed a remarkable season in Europe under Giovanni van Bronckhorst and believed they had secured a friendly draw against Braga – Portugal’s fourth-strongest team – in the quarter-finals.
Still, the Gers have struggled domestically, being usurped at the top of the standings by fierce rivals Celtic – who won at Ibrox on Sunday. While it would have hoped they could have capitalized on that frustration for a rally in Portugal, it was another understated performance that gave them plenty of work for next week’s second leg in Glasgow.
The home side thought they had taken the lead midway through the first half but Andre Horta’s goal was subsequently disallowed by VAR but former Barcelona B striker Abel Ruiz put them ahead five minutes before the break. Rangers will still envision salvaging the tie in the second leg but this was another stunning and disappointing performance.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/barcelona-europa-league-west-ham-26663049 5 talking points as Barcelona struggle and 10-man West Ham play out a Europa League tie