Europa League declared its four semifinalists after the conclusion of quarterfinal games on Tuesday. The last four stages will take place as usual in Germany with the format of one-game ties as Cologne, the final venue, awaits. Italian giants and tournament favourites Inter shoved off German outfit Bayer Leverkusen. They did so in style to book their place in the semis. They will meet free-scoring Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk. Contenders Manchester United leave late against Copenhagen to face record competition winners Sevilla. It was the same team who beat Wolves in another enthralling tie by 1-0.
We took a quick round up to all the four games that pulled spectators to television sets. This was the first time when they had to watch at home. It was something new rather than in stadiums due to the ongoing pandemic situations.
Lukaku is driving the Inter side for the big prize
It is hard to believe that the Belgian was on the end of criticism just a season ago when he used to don the Manchester United shirt. Now, in Nerazzurri blue and black, he’s clocking up goals in every match in the Europa League so far side by side scoring twenty plus goals in the Serie A. Overall, he has netted 31 times in all competitions. And against Leverkusen, he found the back of the net yet again.
Inter gave the German side absolutely no chance in the first 20 minutes, getting quickly on the score sheet quickly through a beautiful placement from Nico Barella before Lukaku got into the act five minutes later to beat Hradecky from close range being unbalanced because of Topsoba pulling him down to the floor. The composure at that time was highly praised by spectators worldwide, which shows just how brilliant the former Chelsea striker has been all season. He would have got more from the match if the Leverkusen keeper had not stayed strong.
Inter dominate their Europa League opponents
However, Leverkusen came back with a goal from German star and reported Chelsea target Kai Havertz but after that Handanovic was pretty unmoved. Inter had a couple of penalty decisions correctly ruled out by VAR in an evening they should have scored more. Alexis Sanchez spoiled some late chances in the games as Inter thrived with a 2-1 scoreline. As a case, Antonio Conte side will face Shakhtar Donetsk next in the semifinals of the competition with the boss looking to settle off his issues towards the board with a silverware finally.
For Leverkusen, it was once again a missed chance for them to add real value to their campaign. After missing out on Champions League football, they faced demolition in the hands of Bayern in the cup final and were very much the second-best in the tie. These circumstances also put pressure on Peter Bosz’s side to keep Kai Havertz with them for the next season as the 21-year-old will feel his time to leave the club has arrived.
Shakhtar are dark horses of the Europa League
The Ukrainian kings are capable of causing a major upset and will be fearless to take on Inter in the semifinals after they crushed one of tournament’s best defence in Swiss side, Basel, by 4-1. The record champions in their domestic league have also eliminated Wolfsburg in the previous round in typical fashion with no sign of slowing down. Their hero of the entire campaign, Junior Moraes scored yet again for his fourth goal in five games in the Europa League. Taison also got onto the act with a deflected strike onto the net as Basel’s solid defence shattered. Alan Patrick’s spot-kick and right-back Dodo’s late strike confirmed Shakhtar’s faith before Wolfswinkel netted the mere conciliation in the one-off tie.
Managed by Portuguese coach Luis Castro, Shakhtar is dark horses among the four semifinalists and on their days are a vicious opposition to play against. Their forward and midfield line is impressive and they litter goals from this area. Along with Moraes, veteran Marlos is still delivering at the age of 32. He also put up a man of the match performance against Basel with two assists. Like a combined force, this team is capable of beating all the odds and lifting the trophy but a stern test in Inter waits for them ahead.
Penalties yet again guide Manchester United to glory
It is absolutely mind-blowing to know that Manchester United had now won 21 penalties in all competitions, 17 of which they have converted. This is also the highest number of penalty kicks taken by any club in the top five leagues. There has been a great round of conversation on the topic as to how the Red Devils managed to earn so much spot-kicks. That topic got a new flare when Bruno Fernandes scored his seventh penalty in all competitions in extra time to beat Copenhagen’s resilience.
United were clear favourites heading into this fixture but little do they know that they had to do it on a hard way. Clearly, the team was stressed and tired after a rapid sequence of games over last two months but it was Copenhagen’s goalkeeper Johnsson who put up a spectacular show making 13 saves in a single game, a record in the competition. The familiar front three of Rashford, Martial and Mason Greenwood started after getting a required rest against LASK in the last round. Although, they were thawed by excellent display in between the sticks and also hitting the post couple of times.
Solskjaer’s men looked good in this round
Greenwood’s early strike was chalked off by VAR. The game head towards the extra time. Martial earned yet another penalty for United by going down under a challenge. The arrival from Sporting CP then did what he does best in converting the spot-kick. Juan Mata once again turned up in a crucial knockout tie in the Europa League. He was seen replicating his brilliance of the 2017 title-winning campaign. That was once again after coming off the bench. Copenhagen did cause notable issues for United to think about. Despite that, it wasn’t enough to stop them from progressing to the semi-final stage of the competition.
Manchester United next will have to defeat Sevilla in order to reach the final of the competition after two years. The Spanish outfit isn’t unknown to the 13 times Premier League champions as they were the one who eliminated them in the round-of-16 stages of the Champions League in 2018. Ole Gunner Solksjaer will be hoping his side now start scoring from open play despite their luck to earn penalties because at this stage they need to get best out of their potent attack. Also, this will open the opportunity for Solksjaer to round off an excellent campaign with a prize in the cabinet after they return to Champions League football after a year absence.
Sevilla ended Wolves’ impressive campaign
Lucas Ocampos scored a header in the dying embers of the game. It came from an Ever Banega free-kick. The goal meant that Manchester United would be the only English team to remain in the competition. Simultaneously, it ended Wolves’s journey in the competition. It also ended their excellent campaign altogether. Nuno Espirito’s men felt hard done by after Raul Jimenez failed to convert from the spot 13 minutes into the game. This was something that he had done with ease all season. They were truly outclassed by the opposition that sustains a strong relationship with the competition.
The three consecutive times winner gave Wolves all sort of trouble. They looked the eager side in this one game tie. The story could have been different if the early penalty was converted by the team’s Portuguese star. Adama Traore made one of his miraculous runs in the box and was brought down by Diego Carlos. Unfortunately for everyone, Jimenez’s penalty was saved by Yassine Bounou. The strike was poor from him. This is something that haunted them later when Ocampos scored the only goal of the game made by Banega through constant Sevilla pressure.
Not a great ending for Wolves?
The La Liga side will eye up yet another Europa League trophy having won it five times. That is the most by any other club. They have also secured Champions League football through their league campaign. Julian Lopetuigi has one of the most balanced teams at his disposal. The attack which sustains the top scorer for the club, Ocampos with Suso and En-Neysri with Luuk De Jong from the bench and the solid defensive pair of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde. Their full-backs Reguilon and veteran Jesus Navas are top drawers in their role. So, they are a real force to claim their sixth title.
For Nuno and his side, it was a heartbreaking ending. However, more positive to look for in future. The team has done a massive job to move from Championship football by promoting themselves in the Premier League. They have also been played a European quarterfinal since their run to the final itself in 1972.
The club is hoping to tie down their Portuguese gaffer with a new contract. The man who claimed for more player signings in future. Even though they haven’t qualified for any European football next season, the best is yet to come from them.
Manchester United losing to Sevilla in the semis of the Europa League
Though Manchester United were the favourites to go through, they could not put up a solid performance on the night. They were rather poor and got knocked by Sevilla in the semis. The Spanish side advanced to the final of the competition at the Red Devils’ expense.
The game ended in a 2-1 scoreline and this seemed like a recap of the loss in 2018. It was United that took the lead in the game through a Bruno Fernandes penalty. However, the Spaniards scored two goals post that, to take home the win. Not a good day in the office for the players of the English giants. A lot more was expected of them.
Some fans suggested that it should be Ole Out once again. However, the opinion is a bit divided on this one. It wasn’t as strong as some of the ones before. Let’s wait and watch now, which way the tide swings. Things could really get interesting with regards to this decision. Only time will tell if he goes or stays. Three years without a title.
He has played three semi-finals and has lost them all this term. Manchester United are the first club ever to lose an FA Cup, League Cup and European semi-final in the same season. No wonder the fans are unhappy. Let’s see what changes are inculcated now in the days to come. All eyes on the club.