Europa League: Impressive away wins for Man United, Spurs; Arsenal, Leicester draw


Bukayo Saka was on target as Arsenal came from behind to secure a draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Portuguese side Benfica.
Played in Rome’s Olympic Stadium instead of Portugal for Covid-19 reasons, the Gunners were the better side but failed to take a number of first-half chances before falling behind soon after the break.
Emile Smith Rowe was adjudged to have handled in blocking Diogo Goncalves’ cross, leading to a penalty that Pizzi converted to take his goal tally to a tournament-high of seven.
However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Cedric Soares’ low cross was converted from close range by England winger Saka.
Fresh from scoring a hat-trick against Leeds in the Premier League, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had two big chances but inexplicably side-footed wide from close range with the score at 0-0 and then dragged an effort off target at 1-1.
In positive news for the Gunners, left-back Kieran Tierney and forward Gabriel Martinelli made welcome returns from injury as second-half substitutes.
The second leg is in Athens in a week’s time, sandwiched between two big league fixtures for the Gunners – the visit of Manchester City to the Emirates and a trip to Leicester.
Meanwhile, Bruno Fernandes continued his magnificent season with a goal in each half as Manchester United took firm control of their Europa League last-32 tie with Real Sociedad.
Fernandes took advantage of hesitant defending to open the scoring in Turin and then stroked in from the edge of the area for a second – which was awarded by VAR after he was initially flagged offside.
Marcus Rashford and Daniel James – who both missed several chances – then scored on the counter to leave next week’s return leg looking a formality, reports the BBC.
Sociedad were top of La Liga when the draw was made but were poor throughout a game played in Italy because of Covid-19 restrictions.
They failed to test United goalkeeper Dean Henderson seriously and were constantly caught out on the break by the pace of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s frontline.
Even Manchester City hero David Silva – who joined Sociedad last August – was kept quiet on an off night.
And Gareth Bale scored and assisted a Tottenham goal in the same game for the first time since 2013 as they beat Wolfsberger in the Europa League.
Bale crossed for Son Heung-min to head the opener and then cut inside and blasted home their second goal.
Lucas Moura added a fine solo goal before half-time in Budapest.
But Michael Liendl’s penalty gave Wolfsberger hope and Christopher Wernitznig hit the bar – before Carlos Vinicius probably killed the tie.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho spoke beforehand about how much he wants to win the Europa League and named a strong team, although Harry Kane was left in London for fitness reasons.
They were excellent in the first half but were much less impressive after replacing Son with Vinicius at half-time.
Wolfsberger were limited opposition, sitting sixth in the Austrian league and in a European knockout game for the first time. The game had to be played six hours away in Budapest, Hungary because of Covid restrictions.
The second leg is next Thursday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
In another game, Leicester City came away with a goalless draw in their Europa League last-32 tie against Slavia Prague.
Brendan Rodgers’ side, who currently sit third in the Premier League, failed to create many clear-cut chances on a frustrating evening in Prague.
Harvey Barnes came closest, when he was denied from close range in the first half, but the hosts put Leicester under some pressure after the break.
The return leg will be played at King Power Stadium on Thursday, 25 February.
Dynamo Kyiv 1 – 1 Club Bruges
Red Star Belgrade 2 – 2 AC Milan
FK Krasnodar 2 – 3 Dinamo Zagreb
Olympiakos 4 – 2 PSV Eindhoven
Real Sociedad 0 – 4 Man Utd
RZ Pellets WAC 1 – 4 Tottenham
Slavia Prague 0 – 0 Leicester
Sporting Braga 0 – 2 Rom2
Young Boys 4 – 3 B’Leverkusen
Benfica 1 – 1 Arsenal
RB Salzburg 0 – 2 Villarreal
Granada 2 – 0 Napoli


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