Liverpool humbled by Atalanta in Europa League, Roma edge Milan

Published April 13, 2024
LIVERPOOL: Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic shoots to score past Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during their Europa League quarter-final first leg at Anfield.—Reuters
LIVERPOOL: Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic shoots to score past Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher during their Europa League quarter-final first leg at Anfield.—Reuters

LEVERKUSEN: Liverpool slu­m­ped to a shock 3-0 home defeat by Atalanta on Thursday as Gianluca Scamacca struck twice for the Italian side in their Europa League quarter-final first leg.

On a chastening evening for former European champions in the continent’s second-tier club competition, AC Milan lost 1-0 at home to fellow Italian side AS Roma. Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leve­rkusen secured a last-gasp 2-0 home win over West Ham United.

Atalanta took the lead at Live­rpool after 38 minutes when an unmarked Scamacca latched on to Davide Zappacosta’s cross to strike a low shot past keeper Caoi­mhin Kelleher who should have done more to keep the effort out.

Scamaca pounced on poor Liverpool defending to fire home from a fine cross by Charles De Ketelaere in the 60th minute before Mario Pasalic sealed the rout seven minutes from time with a simple finish off a rebound from Kelleher.

“Unfortunately, there is nothing really positive to say about the game,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told TNT Sports.

“I know already that if we do a couple of things better, we will be better. Can we win it back? Yes, if we play good it is possible. Can we win 3-0? I have no idea. But this feels really bad and that’s important.”

Meanwhile, late strikes by Bayer Leverkusen substitutes Jonas Hofmann and Victor Boniface earned the Bundesliga leaders a two-goal advantage over West Ham and they remained undefeated this season with 37 wins and five draws across all competitions.

 LEVERKUSEN: Victor Boniface (second R) of Bayer Leverkusen heads to score during the quarter-final first leg against West Ham United at BayArena.—Reuters
LEVERKUSEN: Victor Boniface (second R) of Bayer Leverkusen heads to score during the quarter-final first leg against West Ham United at BayArena.—Reuters

Leverkusen dominated the game but the visitors’ keeper Lukasz Fabianski pulled off a string of saves and kept out dangerous efforts by Alejandro Grimaldo and Patrik Schick to keep the scores level at the break.

Hofmann gave Leverkusen the lead in the 83rd minute, scoring with a first-time effort and striker Boniface doubled the advantage in stoppage time with a header into the bottom corner.

“It’s not luck, it’s for a reason,” Alonso told reporters of his side’s habit of winning late. “When it was 0-0 you could try and overreact and lose control while trying to score. We didn’t want to do that.We wanted to insist and we wanted to keep going.”

The hosts, who can clinch the Bundesliga title on Sunday, had 33 attempts on goal — 13 on target — compared to one sole effort by midfielder Mohammed Kudus for Europa Conference League holders West Ham.

In Thursday’s other fixture, Roma upset hosts Milan as Gianluca Mancini scored to end the capital club’s nine-match winless run against Stefano Pioli’s side.

Roma, who had last beaten Milan in 2019, took the lead thanks to Mancini’s pinpoint header from Paulo Dybala’s corner in the 17th minute.

“We should have been more courageous,” Milan coach Stefano Pioli said. “We created some chances, but I didn’t see the same quality as in the last matches.

“This team can do more, I know that. I didn’t expect the defeat, we weren’t precise, we lacked the flair.”

Elsewhere, Portuguese champions Benfica claimed a 2-1

home win over Olympique de Marseille through goals by Rafa Silva and Argentine forward Angel Di Maria.

In the Europa Conference League fixtures on Thursday, Aston Villa inched closer to a first European trophy in more than four decades with a 2-1 win over Lille.

Ollie Watkins and John McGinn scored either side of half-time to give the Premier League highflyers a serious option on the semi-finals ahead of next week’s quarter-final return leg in France.

Villa, who crushed Ajax 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16, are aiming to claim their third continental title following their victory in the European Cup in 1982 and the UEFA Super Cup the following season.

The gloss was slightly taken off their night’s work when Bafode Diakite scored for the visitors with six minutes left on the clock.

“We’ve had a lot of opportunities and 2-1 is a bit disappointing, I think it should have been three or four,” reflected Watkins. “We have a game plan and we stick to it no matter what,” he added.

The winners of this tie will advance to face either Greek giants Olympiakos or Fenerbahce of Turkey.

This pair met earlier Thursday in Greece with Fenerbahce’s tumultuous week continuing as they mounted a stirring second half fightback in a 3-2 loss.

The Turkish outfit appeared to be down and out after an hour’s play, with their Greek hosts bossing the quarter-final first leg by three goals.

Kostas Fortounis and Stevan Jovetic put Olympiakos firmly in control by half-time, with Chiquinho consolidating their advantage on 57 minutes.

But a 68th minute penalty from Dusan Tadic followed by Irfan Can Kahveci’s 74th minute contribution gave Fenerbahce a lifeline ahead of next week’s return leg in Turkey.

“We started strongly, but Olympiakos are a very good side and they converted their opportunities. After falling 3-0 behind, we managed to regroup, play our game and increase our chances to qualify,” commented Tadic.

Elsewhere, Fiorentina, last season’s beaten finalists in Europe’s third-tier continental competition, were held to a goalless draw at Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic.

The winners of this tie will go on to face the winners of the meeting between Club Brugge of Belgium or PAOK of Greece, with Brugge leading 1-0 ahead of next week’s return leg.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2024

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