Europa League: Di Maria masterclass sends Juventus through, Sporting and Sevilla advance

Europa League: Di Maria masterclass sends Juventus through, Sporting and Sevilla advance
Angel Di Maria scored a hat trick for Juventus
Angel Di Maria scored a hat trick for Juventus
Angel Di Maria (35) was the star of the show for Juventus, scoring a hat trick to beat Nantes 3-0 and send them through to the next stage of the Europa League knock-out phase. Elsewhere, Sporting cruised past Midtjylland and Sevilla lost to PSV but went through on aggregate. Monaco and Leverkusen's dramatic tie went to extra time and then penalties with the German club prevailing.

Nantes - Juventus 0-3

Three-time UEFA Europa League champions Juventus cruised to a 4-1 aggregate knockout stage play-off victory with a 3-0 second-leg thumping of Nantes thanks to a hat-trick from the sensational Angel Di Maria.

Despite their relatively poor Ligue 1 season, a sea of yellow provided a special atmosphere at the Stade de la Beaujoire, and the Nantes squad of the 1996 UEFA Champions League semi-final, a loss against tonight’s opponents, were present by special invitation.

Following their points deduction in Serie A, visitors Juventus will likely need to lift the trophy in this competition to experience Champions League football next season, and required a win here following the first-leg stalemate.

Les Canaris fully deserved an unexpected 1-1 draw in Turin, and beckoned on by their supporters, they put the pressure on right from kick-off. Nevertheless, Juventus’ immense quality was on display in abundance as they took the lead with virtually their first foray into the opposing half.

Di Maria, star of December’s FIFA World Cup final, received the ball at the very corner of the box and swept it first-time into the far top corner of the goal with unbelievable curve and accuracy.

Nantes were thrown off their rhythm, and things soon went from bad to worse as Di Maria put them to the sword once again. The Argentine superstar’s backheeled shot following a tricky run into the box was judged to be handled on the line by Nicolas Pallois, resulting in both a red card and a penalty which was dispatched confidently by Di Maria.

With the man disadvantage, the home side were forced to play on the back foot, and Juventus had numerous chances for the remainder of the half, culminating in a Filip Kostic shot hitting the post on the stroke of halftime.

Requiring an even bigger task than in the first leg, changes were made by Antoine Kombouare at the break, but they did little to change Nantes’ fortunes.

The visitors dominated the play, with Nicolo Fagioli and Manuel Locatelli pulling the strings in midfield. They also had chances, and the likes of Kostic and Juan Cuadrado forced good saves from an imperious Alban Lafont.

However, the Nantes goalkeeper was to be beaten when Di Maria rose highest to meet a deflected ball into the box and headed it just over the line for his third of the night.

Nantes finally had some meaningful chances in the final moments, but Wojciech Szczesny could not be beaten, and the tie ended in heartbreak for La Maison Jeune.

Meanwhile, Massimiliano Allegri will see his side into the knockout round proper of the Europa League, and they could now face the likes of Arsenal or Real Sociedad in the last 16.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Angel Di Maria (Juventus)

See all the match stats here.

Midtjylland - Sporting 0-4

Sporting kept their UEFA Europa League dreams alive after a 4-0 victory over 10-man Midtjylland saw them advance to the Round of 16.

Having somewhat unexpectedly drawn the first leg 1-1, the Portuguese side came out like a team which knew their most probable route into next season’s Champions League was by winning this competition.

Right-back Ricardo Esgaio tested Jonas Lossl early on with a shot from a tight angle after neat interplay from the Leones. Then, just two minutes later, Ruben Amorim’s side took the lead when, following a corner, Jeremiah St. Juste’s effort from close range came back off the bar, but Sebastian Coates was there to head home. The Sporting captain’s late equaliser in the first leg, along with this effort, account for his only two goals this season.

After Marcus Edwards had missed the chance to double the visitors’ lead when he raced through on goal and saw a chipped effort pushed away by Lossl, the hosts’ search for a first-ever two-legged tie triumph over Portuguese opposition was made all the more challenging.

Defender Paulinho was shown a second yellow card in as many minutes for a needless foul on Esgaio, leaving the Ulvene with a mountain to climb in the second half.

Midtjylland boss Albert Capellas made three changes at the interval in an attempt to transform his team’s fortunes, however, it failed to have the desired effect as, five minutes after the restart, Pedro Goncalves’ wonderful first-time volley from the left side of the area flew into the bottom right corner to double Sporting’s lead on the night.

With the result already decided, Sporting's top scorer Goncalves made it a brace late on before defender Stefan Gartenmann comically inadvertently passed the ball into his own net to round off a miserable evening.

Sporting will discover their Round of 16 opponents tomorrow, while Midtjylland’s wait for European glory goes on for another year.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Pedro Goncalves (Sporting Lisbon)

See all the match stats here.

PSV - Sevilla 2-0

Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla side were unable to end a run of 10 away matches in Europe without a victory but still progressed beyond PSV Eindhoven into the next round of the UEFA Europa League courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate win. 

With the tie all but settled in the first leg, Sevilla knew if they steered clear of absolute disaster during their trip to Eindhoven, they’d secure a record-extending 23rd safe passage into the Europa League knockouts.

Intent on making the match as event-free as possible, Sevilla’s first-half game plan consisted of them limiting their Dutch hosts to very few touches of the ball. While the visitors were rather conservative going forward, Bryan Gil’s presence in attack provided most of the half’s brightest moments. The Tottenham Hotspur loanee’s mazy run into the PSV box looked as if it was going to yield a penalty for Sevilla, but referee Daniele Orsato was unmoved by the protests.

Despite their healthy three-goal advantage, Sevilla were willing to open up more as the match progressed, with the side from Andalusia fashioning a number of clear-cut chances. It started with Youssef En-Nesyri, who saw a close-range strike smothered by Walter Daniel Benitez, before Ivan Rakitic clattered the crossbar from 18 yards out.

Regardless, it was PSV who struck first, when former Sevilla striker Luuk de Jong bundled home a scrappy goal inside the penalty area.

The start of a record comeback? Not quite. Although, those inside the Philips Stadion were able to cling onto hope until the very end, with Fabio Silva netting a second inside added time, cutting the deficit to just two goals.

While they may be travelling to southern Spain on the back of a defeat, Sevilla will be in the draw for the next stage, with their ambition of a fifth Europa League title very much still alive.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Luuk de Jong (PSV Eindhoven)

See all the match stats here.

Monaco - Bayer Leverkusen 2-3 (3-5 pen.)

Bayer Leverkusen progressed to the last 16 by winning a goal-laden tie on penalties, ending Monaco’s unbeaten home run of 13 games in UEFA competition.

Leverkusen travelled to the Stade Louis II, after a dramatic first leg which served up the highest-scoring tie of the round. This game looked to be no different as good chances for Mitchel Bakker and Wissam Ben Yedder almost provided immediate drama.

But after a strong start, the visitors deservedly took the lead when Florian Wirtz became the youngest player to score seven Europa League goals by tapping in Jeremie Frimpong’s low cross to make it 1-0.

Monaco were a side full of confidence having gone unbeaten in their last eight games and quickly drew level when Salim Ben Seghir was cynically fouled inside the area by Edmond Tapsoba, allowing Wissam Ben Yedder to level the scores from the spot.

In a frenetic contest, just two minutes after equalising, Leverkusen were back in front thanks to a brilliant curled Exequiel Palacios effort that found its way into the bottom corner to see the German side go down the tunnel ahead.

Just like in the first half, Leverkusen started on top after the restart and flew in the lead following some brilliant attacking play that culminated in Wirtz’s cross being nodded in by Amine Adli, who repaid his inclusion after being sent off at the weekend.

This incredibly open game showed no signs of slowing down when Ben Yedder saw his effort rattle the crossbar before Bakker saw his effort ruled out for a tight offside at the other end.

To Monaco’s credit, they didn’t relent and after going close through Ben Seghir they brought the tie to 3-2 - mirroring the first leg score - after substitute Breel Embolo rose highest to meet Krepin Diatta’s cross late on.

Edan Diop almost won it on his debut when he turned in Myron Boadu’s cross, however, the ball had gone out of play in the build-up with the game on a knife edge as it entered extra-time.

The rollercoaster nature of the game continued when Bakker skipped past two defenders before seeing his effort saved by Alexander Nubel. Monaco’s best chance in extra time fell to the former Leverkusen man Kevin Volland who powered his header straight at Lukas Hradecky as the dramatic game went to penalties.

It was Leverkusen who sealed a place in the next round thanks to a string of fine penalties after unfortunate Monaco youngster Eliot Matazo saw his effort painfully crash against the crossbar.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

See all the match stats here.


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