Europa League semi final action got underway Thursday night with Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon both winning to enhance their chances of making the May 9th final.
In Spain, it was an all Spanish affair between capital club Atletico and Valencia with Atletico winning 4-2 thanks to their in-form striker Radamel Falcao who netted twice to give Atletico a massive advantage ahead of the return leg at the Mestalla next week.
The pressure was definitely with the 2010 winners who needed only 18 minutes to get on the score sheet. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao headed in a close range shot from an Arda Turan cross to give the home side the lead, however, Valencia levelled deep in extra time to see both sides go into the break all square.
Four goals later and with 12 minutes left to play, there was no doubt that the home side were indeed headed for a very important victory. Speaking after the match, Atletico coach Diego Simeone described his sides performance as his best since taking over the club last December.
“In terms of the intensity and the consistency of the performance, this has been the best match since I arrived. he said.
“There has been a great understanding of the type of game we wanted to play. The team understood the moment and the match.”
Meanwhile, in Portugal, Sporting Lisbon also walked away with a crucial 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao thanks to an 80th minute wonder strike from Diego Capel. The win kept Sporting coach Ricardo Sa Pinto’s impressive unbeaten home record intact.
Of course, both ties are far from over, although for Valencia it will be an uphill task when they host Madrid at the Mestalla next week. Valencia have to win by at least two goals and hope Atletico fail to score if they are to go through to the final.