Liverpool out of Europa League as Leverkusen advance to semis

Published April 20, 2024
ROME: Paulo Dybala of AS Roma scores past AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan during their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Stadio Olimpico.—Reuters
ROME: Paulo Dybala of AS Roma scores past AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan during their Europa League quarter-final second leg at Stadio Olimpico.—Reuters

LONDON: Liverpool crashed out of the Europa League after a 1-0 win against Atalanta that wasn’t enough to overturn their quarter-final deficit, while Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-1 draw at West Ham United took the German champions into the last four on Thursday.

In Jurgen Klopp’s last season as Liverpool boss, the Reds were hoping to give the German a memorable farewell in the final in Dublin.

But Liverpool had suffered a stun­ning 3-0 loss in the first leg against Atalanta at Anfield last week.

And although Liverpool have authored some of European football’s greatest comebacks down the years against the likes of St Etien­ne, AC Milan and Barcelona, there would be no miracle escape this time.

Mohamed Salah converted a seventh minute penalty in the second leg in Bergamo after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross hit Matteo Ruggeri’s arm.

However, Klopp’s men couldn’t breach the stubborn Atalanta defence again.

It has been a brutal week for Liverpool, whose Premier League title challenge was damaged by a shock home defeat against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“It’s mixed emotions. We are out but I’m happy with the game,” Klopp said. “It was clear we gave ourselves a massive hurdle. We wished we could have gone to Dublin but that hasn’t happened.”

VILLENEUVE-d’ASCQ (France): Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saves the last penalty in a shoot-out during the Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg against Lille at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.—AFP
VILLENEUVE-d’ASCQ (France): Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saves the last penalty in a shoot-out during the Europa Conference League quarter-final second leg against Lille at Stade Pierre-Mauroy.—AFP

While Klopp contemplates his failure to land the one major trophy to elude him during nine years with Liverpool, Atalanta can dream of winning the second silverware in their 116-year history after the 1963 Coppa Italia.

Bidding to reach their maiden European final, Gian Piero Gasperini’s team will face Olympique de Marseille in their first European semi-final since the 1988 Cup Winners’ Cup.

Fresh from clinching their first Bundesliga title last weekend, Leverkusen survived a scare from West Ham before advancing 3-1 on aggregate.

In the semi-finals, Xabi Alonso’s side will play AS Roma, who saw off Italian rivals AC Milan 3-1 on aggregate.

Leverkusen won the first leg 2-0 but West Ham made the perfect start in east London when Michail Antonio met Jarrod Bowen’s pin-point cross with a close-range header in the 13th minute.

West Ham eventually ran out of steam and Jeremie Frimpong stru­ck in the 89th minute with a shot that deflected in off Aaron Cresswell.

“The momentum was with West Ham. To be honest, we were not at our best in the first half. I’m happy to go through. In the Europa League you always have tough moments,” Alonso said.

Leverkusen are into their second successive Europa League semi-final, while West Ham’s exit means for only the third time in the 21st century, England will have no teams in the Champions League and Europa League last four.

Leverkusen’s 44-game unbe­aten run in all competitions has taken them to the brink of an incredible treble, finally ridding the club of the ‘Neverkusen’ tag that mocked their decades of underachievement.

Alonso’s team, who face second tier Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final on May 25, beat Werder Bremen 5-0 on Sunday to win the Bundesliga title.

At the Stadio Olimpico, Gianluca Mancini put Roma head from close-range in the 12th minute and Paulo Dybala doubled their advantage in the 22nd minute with a blistering strike.

Daniele De Rossi’s side were red­uced to 10 men in the 31st minute when Zeki Celik was dismissed for a foul on Milan forward Rafael Leao.

Matteo Gabbia got one back in the 85th minute, but his header was little consolation for Milan.

After losing last season’s Europa League final against Sevilla, Roma are one step closer to finally winning the competition for the first time.

Roma, who won the Europa Conference League in 2022, are into their fifth European semi-final in the last seven seasons.

In the south of France, Marseille were 4-2 winners in a penalty shoot-out against Benfica following the French side’s 1-0 victory in a tie that finished 2-2 on aggregate.

Faris Moumbagna struck in the 79th minute, heading in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s cross to force extra-time.

In the shoot-out, Luis Henrique scored the winner for Jean-Louis Gasset’s side after Benfica duo Angel Di Maria and Antonio Silva missed their kicks.

MARTINEZ HEROICS SEND VILLA INTO LAST FOUR

Meanwhile in the Europa Conference League fixtures on Thursday, Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez saved two spot kicks and survived a bizarre red card incident as his side beat French club Lille on penalties to reach the last-four stage.

Lille had led 2-0 with goals by Yusuf Yazici and Andre but Matty Cash’s deflected effort in the 87th minute sent the tie into extra time.

A chaotic match ended 3-3 on aggregate after Lille’s 2-1 victory on the night but the real drama was to come in the shoot-out with World Cup winner Martinez in the thick of it.

Martinez, who was shown a yellow card during the game, first saved brilliantly to keep out Nabil Bentaleb’s effort to give Villa the advantage in the shoot-out but was warned for his persistent mind games in the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

The Argentine was then shown a second yellow card for his antics and appeared to have been sent off only to be reprieved by the rule which states that yellow cards awa­r­ded during regular time are not carried forward to penalty shoot-outs.

Villa’s Leon Bailey then missed his spot kick but Martinez proved the hero as he kept out Benjamin Andre’s effort to seal a 4-3 shoot-out win for Unai Emery’s side.

It is the first time Villa have reached a European semi-final since 1982.

Elsewhere on Thursday, last season’s runners-up Fiorentina sealed a return to the semis with a 2-0 win over 10-man Viktoria Plzen after extra time.

Cadu was sent off in the second half for a foul on the edge of the Plzen box and Fiorentina made the extra man count when Nico Gonz­alez struck in the 92nd minute.

Skipper Cristiano Biraghi added a second on 108 minutes as the Italians progressed 2-0 on aggregate.Spanish striker Ferran Jutgla got both goals for Club Brugge in a 2-0 win in Greece as the Belgians eased through 3-0 over the two legs.

Published in Dawn, April 20th, 2024

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