Milan, Benfica and Marseille reach Europa League last 16

Published February 24, 2024
MARSEILLE: (from fifth L) Olympique de Marseille players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Samuel Gigot and Ismaila Sarr jump to defend a free-kick during the Europa League round-of-32 playoff second leg against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Velodrome Stadium.—AFP
MARSEILLE: (from fifth L) Olympique de Marseille players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Samuel Gigot and Ismaila Sarr jump to defend a free-kick during the Europa League round-of-32 playoff second leg against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Velodrome Stadium.—AFP

PARIS: AC Milan overcame a spirited Stade Rennais 5-3 on aggregate despite a 3-2 loss in Thursday’s play-off round second leg to reach the Europa League last 16, where they will be joined by fellow former European champions Benfica and Olympique de Marseille.

Benjamin Bourigeaud scored a hat-trick for Rennais, including a pair of penalties, but goals from Luka Jovic and Rafael Leao ensured Milan were never really in danger of blowing a 3-0 lead from the first leg.

Benfica also saw off French opposition as a 0-0 draw away to Toulouse was enough to send the Portuguese side through following their 2-1 victory in last week’s first leg in Lisbon.

RC Lens, who dropped down from the Champions League into the knockout play-off round, became the third French club to go out after Freiburg fought back from two goals down to win 3-2 after extra time.

David Pereira da Costa and Elye Wahi put Lens in control of the tie following a goalless opening leg, but Roland Sallai struck twice to force extra time in Germany.

Michael Gregoritsch grabbed the winner in the 99th minute for Freiburg.

Marseille kept French interest in the competition alive as they came from behind to beat Shakhtar Donetsk 5-3 on aggregate after a 3-1 victory at the Velodrome.

Georgiy Sudakov stroked home a penalty early in Marseille before the hosts replied via Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s record-setting 31st Europa League goal.

Ismaila Sarr fired Marseille ahead on 74 minutes and Geoffrey Kondogbia added a late third on Jean-Louis Gasset’s debut as coach after the departure of Gennaro Gattuso.

In Thursday’s other fixtures, last season’s runners-up AS Roma edged Feyenoord 4-2 on penalties in the Italian capital after 1-1 draws in both legs.

Qarabag, 4-2 winners last week away to Braga, blew a two-goal advantage after being reduced to 10 men as their Portuguese opponents took the tie to extra time in Baku.

The Azerbaijani team went back in front through Matheus Silva but it looked destined for penalties when Simon Banza’s penalty made it 3-1 on the night to Braga.

Nariman Akhundzade sent Qarabag into the next round though with a goal in the 122nd minute.

Elsewhere, Sporting progressed 4-2 on aggregate despite a 1-1 draw at home to Swiss champions Young Boys.

Sparta Prague overturned a 3-2 first-leg deficit by scoring three times after Galatasaray’s Kaan Ayhan saw red to win the return fixture 4-1 at home.

In Europa Conference League round-of-16 matches, Ajax scraped past Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt after extra time to reach the quarter-finals.

After a 2-2 draw in Amsterdam, the Dutch giants went ahead when Steven Berghuis struck in the first half of the second leg.

But they had centre-back Josip Sutalo sent off early in the second half and Patrick Berg’s equaliser took it into extra time, with Kenneth Taylor’s 114th-minute effort putting Ajax through 4-3 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Dinamo Zagreb knocked out Real Betis 2-1 on aggregate and Union Saint-Gilloise of Belgium took down 2022 Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt 4-3 over two legs.

Olympiakos also moved on along with Swiss side Servette, Norwegians Molde and Austria’s Sturm Graz.

Maccabi Haifa were the first team through after defeating Gent 2-1 on aggregate, with the second leg in Belgium on Wednesday played behind closed doors because of fears of riots linked to the Israel-Hamas war.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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