Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 1

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint PetersburgZenit cruised through to the Round of 16 thanks to a great performance against Liverpool in the Round of 32, but their run of luck seemed to have come to an end when they traveled to Basel for the first leg of this tie. Basel, having managed to get past a tough Dnipro, were still determined to go for the title.

This match started well for the home side, who had an opportunity to go forward early, had Diaz not missed the target. The Russian visitors were by no means asleep during this game, and so they also went out and got an opportunity for themselves, but Basel were not going to concede early.

It was still anyone’s game; the first half having been a 50/50 game. Both teams held each other quite comfortably and there didn’t seem to be a goal coming at all. The team with possibly the better attempts and more possession was the home side, but Zenit held strong looking for an away goal.

The second half saw Luciano Spalleti introduce the fresh legs of Fayzulin on for a hardworking Semak. Hulk was more or less released now, and was able to make a few attempts, but Basel just wouldn’t let him. Steinhöfer then came off for Degen, and soon after that, Serey Die made way for Elneny. The game still looked tied and it didn’t seem like we would see a goal from either side for the first leg, not with the kind of defense Zenit had!

Murat Yakin put Frei on for Zoua, bringing a little more edge to the Basel game. 4 minutes later, Basel finally got their hard-earned goal when a Mohamed Salah effort paved the way for his teammate to get back a strong Malafeev. The home side didn’t think that one goal was enough for the 90 minutes and kept searching for one more into the 4 minutes of added time after the game. An opportunity to add to their tally came right at the end of the game, when Luis Neto fouled Salah in the box, granting Basel a last-minute penalty. Frei didn’t waste this chance for his team and put the ball into the net for a second Basel goal from the spot.

Basel had a total of 21 attempts against Zenit’s 11; the home side had much better attempts as well. A total of 4 yellow cards was issued between the two teams; the away side only picking up 1. Zenit’s Luis Neto was the only player to be sent off during this match and will miss the second leg.

Murat Yakin and Luciano Spalleti lined up the following squads:

Basel Starting XI

Sommer (c), Park Joo Ho, P. Degen, Dragovic, Schar, D. Degen, Diaz, Salah, Cabral, Serey Die, Zoua

Subs: Vaillati, Voser, Sauro, Stocker, Elneny, Frei, and Steinhofer

Zenit Starting XI

Malafeev, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Hubocan, Rodic, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Witsel, Semak, Hulk, Danny

Subs: Zhenov, Bruno Alves, Lukovic, Bystrov, Bukharov, Kerzakhov, and Fayzulin

Final Score: Basel 1893 2-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg

Diaz 83′ | Frei 90 + 4′ (pen)

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de Bordeaux

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de BordeauxHaving overcome tough ties against Leverkusen and Kyiv, Benfica and Bordeaux had an even tougher game to play against each other in the Round of 32. The first leg being played in Portugal, the French side were to make it their mission to take each and every chance as it would come and use it to score as many goals as possible.

Benfica, in the same way, were to avoid conceding at all costs, knowing how tough their opponents are known to be domestically. That said, both manager, (with teams seemingly of the same strength) played more or less the same kind of players on the night.

As soon as Alon Yefet blew the first whistle, the home side were already starting to threaten Carrasso in the Bordeaux goal; hoping that an early goal would demoralize their visitors and prevent them from getting any away goals. 12 minutes in, however, Bordeaux had their first shot, courtesy of Obraniak, but Artur saved it. And a 50/50 game went on.

What was to be the only goal in this game came in the 21st minute, thanks to a powerful shot by Rodrigo; onto the crossbar (with a touch from Carrasso’s back) in an embarrassing manner (for Carrasso), all to the delight of a Portuguese crowd.

The 50/50 game continued all the way to the final whistle, and Benfica would have the upper hand when they would visit France. Although there were some decent attempts from both sides in the second half, Carrasso, Artur, and both sides’ defenders prevented any other goals from getting in.

Statistic-wise, Benfica had a total of 8 attempts; 3 of them being off target. Bordeaux had a total of 11, 3 of which were off target as well. Both Carrasso and Artur were tested equally, both of them having made 3 saves each. More than 60% of this game was played in midfield. The home side had better chances on the night. Alon Yefet only issued 2 yellow cards on the night, both of which went to the home side. No players were sent off during this game.

Jorge Jesus and Francis Gillot lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Roderick, Luisao (c), Garay, Almeida, Gaitan, Martins, Rodrigo, Melgarejo, John, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Pereira, Jardel, Aimar, Lima, Salvio, and Perez

Bordeaux Starting XI

Carrassso, Sane, Marioano, Tremoulinas, Plasil (c), Sertic, Maurice-Belay, Faubert, Obraniak, Rolan

Subs: Keita, Marange, Planus, Poundje, Ben Khalfallah, Traore, and Bellion

Final Score: SL Benfica 1-0 Girondins de Bordeaux

Carrasso 21′ (o.g)

Written by Ange Marline

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