Europa League Round of 32 First Leg Review: Part 1

February 14th couldn’t have been more action-filled! Well, at least for me! 16 exciting fixtures, and so many great goals (35 to be precise)! Tears for some teams, joy for others; but excitement all in all. Some results, we never saw coming, but some weren’t so surprising.

Here is my review of the 1st leg matches of this past week’s Europa League ties:

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Liverpool

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. LiverpoolThis was an exciting match that could have gone either way because we expected both teams to be as strong as they’re normally known to be. On this night, however, the home side was far stronger than Brendan Rodgers’ men. Luciano Spalleti seems to have told his men to do everything possible to go into the 2nd leg with a great advantage. At some point in the game, you’d think that Brendan Rodgers’ men had fallen asleep because of the little time (four minutes) it took them to concede a second goal from when they had already were down one!

Statistic-wise, Zenit had many more attempts, more corners, and more shots on target, whereas Liverpool only had fewer bookings and more shots off target. Liverpool had a few offsides as well. There were a few bookings between the two teams (three in total), and no sending-offs. Zenit controlled most of the game, and capitalized where Liverpool failed to. Hulk, and substitute Semak, saved their team halfway through the second half.

As expected, both managers brought out strong squads:

Zenit Starting XI:

Malafeev, Anyukov, Lombaerts, Neto, Hubocan, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Witsel, Danny, Kerzakhov, Hulk.

Subs: Zhevnov, Fayzulin, Rodic, Lukovic, Semak, Djordjevic, and Evseev

Liverpool Starting XI:

Reina, Johnson, Jose Enrique, Carragher, Skrtel, Gerrard (c), Henderson, Downing, Allen, Sterling, Suarez

Subs: Jones, Coates, Wisdom, Shelvey, Borini, Suso, and Lucas

Final Score: Zenit Saint Petersburg 2-0 Liverpool

Hulk 69′, Semak 72′

SSC Napoli vs. Viktoria Plzen

SSC Napoli vs. Viktoria PlzenThis match was one of the most anticipated games on Valentine’s night! The manner in which it ended was a shock to many, but certainly a joy to all Czechs! So many of us expected Napoli to go all out and win this tie, but Plzen, even from early on in the game (28th minute to be precise), had other plans! Statistics-wise, Napoli had more attempts (15), although most of those were off-target (12). Plzen only had 4 attempts, 3 of which turned out to be goals! No players were sent off during this match; there were only three bookings between both teams.

Pavel Vrba and Walter Mazzari brought out the following squads:

Napoli Starting XI:

De Sanctis, Britos, Maggio (c), Rolando, Zuniga, Dzemaili, Gamberini, Donadel, Cavani, Pandev, El Kaddouri

Subs: Rosati, Campagnaro, Cannavaro, Mesto, Hamsik, Inler, and Calaio

Plzen Starting XI:

Kozacik, Limbersky, Reznik, Prochazka, Clsovsky, Kolar, Horvath (c), Darida, Kovarik, Bakos, Rajtoral

Subs: Pavlik, Zeman, Stipek, Adamov, Fillo, Tecl, and Hejda

Final Score: SSC Napoli 0-3 Viktoria Plzen

Darida 28′, Rajtoral 79′, Tecl 90′

Written by Ange Marline