When Valencia forward Juan Mata said that their Europa League tie against against fellow Spanish club Atletico Madrid would produce a significant number of goals, i was very skeptical. Considering the number of injuries and suspensions that both clubs faced a barren draw is what i had envisioned.
However, not only did the tie live up to its billing, it also set fans up for an interesting return leg fixture. A late David Villa goal salvaged a 2-2 draw for Valencia that gives the hope when they head to the Vicente Calderon stadium in a week’s time for the return leg fixture.
All the goals were scored in the second half with the last two for either side coming in the span of ten minutes. And as these two teams were playing their all at the Estalla, another former La Liga player Ruud Van Nistelrooy ensured his club Hamburg beat Belgian club Standard Liege to curv out an advantage ahead of their return leg fixture.
Van Nistelrooy who fired the winner, seems to have rediscovered his form in the Bundesliga. Liverpool on the other hand were not very lucky. The reds suffered a 2-1 defeat to Benfica in game that saw Ryan Babel red carded for indecent behavior. Liverpool now have to make it work at Anfield or otherwise count it another tournament that they have been disgracefully eliminated from.
Both of Benfica’s goals came from Oscar Cardozo while Daniel Agger was on the score sheet for Liverpool. It seems like 2-1 was the popular score margin as Fulham edged out VfL Stuttgart by the similar margin at Craven Cottage.
Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff were on target for Fulham while Alexander Madlung ensured that Stuttgart have hope going into the second leg fixture. After overcoming Juventus in the round of 16, Fulham seem to have infused the momentum that allowed them to win beat a rather indifferent Juventus. That said, the return leg of these fixtures will definitely be a joy to watch especially the all Spanish tie.
Photo credit: Alvaro Isidoro