Holders Sevilla cruise into Europa semis
Holders Sevilla sealed their place in the semifinals of the Europa League on Thursday after a dramatic 2-2 draw with Zenit St Petersburg in Russia saw them progress 4-3 on aggregate.
The Spanish side threw away a commanding lead in the tie by conceding two second-half goals, and the match looked to be heading for extra time until substitute Kevin Gameiro popped up with five minutes remaining.
The French striker, whose penalty in the shoot-out against Benfica in last season’s final secured the trophy for Unai Emery’s side, beat Yuri Lodygin with a crisp strike to silence the Petrovski Stadium and take Sevilla into Friday’s draw.
Having won 2-1 in the first leg in Spain a week ago, Sevilla were in a fantastic position in the tie after Carlos Bacca converted a penalty in the sixth minute for his 22nd goal of the season after Vitolo went down under the slightest of contact from Luis Neto. Zenit now needed to score twice without reply just to force extra time but they were given hope just after the interval when Jose Rondon netted after Beto fumbled Oleg Shatov’s cross. And then Brazil star Hulk squared the tie on aggregate with an incredible strike from 40 yards out wide on the right that hit the underside of the bar and landed just over the line.
But Gameiro emerged to send Andre Villas-Boas’s Russian Premier League leaders packing from European competition. Italy will have two representatives in the semifinals after Fiorentina and Napoli both sealed their progress. After scoring a late away goal in Kiev last week to hold Dynamo Kiev to a 1-1 draw, Fiorentina won the return 2-0 against the Ukrainian giants thanks to a goal in each half from Mario Gomez and substitute Juan Manuel Vargas.