Eight things you might have missed during the Europa League Round of 16
The Europa League kicked back into gear on Thursday as the first legs of the Round of 16 ties were completed.
With the fixtures drawn two weeks ago, fans were eagerly anticipating the mouthwatering ties that were thrown up, including Arsenal travelling to AC Milan and the latest journeys for Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
While most eyes of neutrals may have been focused on the game at the San Siro, there were seven other matches featuring action aplenty.
Here are eight things you might have missed in the Europa League Round of 16 first legs.
Arsenal have won more away games in Europe than in England this season
With a well deserved 2-0 win at the San Siro against AC Milan, Premier League side Arsenal put themselves in the driving seat to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 8, 2018
Sixth in the Premier League, this competition represents the best opportunity for the Gunners to reach next season’s Champions League and, following a poor run, Arsene Wenger’s men returned to winning ways.
The win in Italy was their seventh away from home in all competitions this season, and their fourth in the Europa League from five attempts – with only FC Koln stopping Arsenal from winning away in the Europa League this season.
However, domestically the Gunners have won just three away games in 17 attempts across three competitions – only beating Everton, Burnley and Crystal Palace – with all coming in the Premier League.
Michy Batshuayi’s goal drought continues
When Michy Batshuayi first joined Borussia Dortmund on loan from Chelsea on the final day of the January transfer window, much was made about his form as he scored five goals in his first three games.
However, since netting twice in the 3-2 Europa League round-of-32 first-leg win over Atalanta just under a month ago, the Belgian has now gone five games without a goal.
Batshuayi started in Dortmund’s 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Red Bull Salzburg, lasting 60 minutes before being taken off with the German side two goals down.
In his hour on the pitch the Belgian managed three shots on goal, however, all three were blocked by the Salzburg defence.
Such was Batshuayi’s luck, as soon as he was replaced as part of a double substitution, Dortmund equalised through Andre Schurrle who was set up by one of those coming on, Christian Pulisic.
AC Milan lose for first time in 14 games
When the draw put AC Milan up against Arsenal, fans of the Rossoneri were the happier of the two sides given their respective form.
AC Milan have now conceded their first goal in all competitions in 584 minutes of open play. ⏲️
Henrikh Mkhitaryan the man to end the run. ⚽ pic.twitter.com/iCAd1Cr4Zg
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 8, 2018
Going into the game Arsenal had lost four consecutive games including a shock defeat to Ostersunds in their Europa League last-32 second leg, while AC Milan were unbeaten in 13 games (10 wins).
However, on the night the youthfulness of Milan showed as they were made to look fairly amateur by an Arsenal team determined to make something of their season.
Not since December 2017 had Genaro Gattuso’s men been on the receiving end of a beating, when Atalanta beat them 2-0 in Serie A.
As a result the Rossoneri have an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
Lucas Ocampos scores the fastest Europa League goal of the season
In an important European tie, it is imperative a team gets their start right.
When Athletic Bilbao made their trip to the Stade Velodrome on Thursday night, they could not have envisaged a worse start than the one they endured.
36 – The goal of Lucas Ocampos scored after 36 seconds is the quickest goal in the Europa League this season. Precocious
— OptaJean (@OptaJean) March 8, 2018
Following a good run across the box from the in-form Florian Thauvin, the Frenchman played a cute ball through the defence.
On the end of it was Lucas Ocampos, who produced the deftest of touches to give Marseille the lead inside the first minute.
Officially timed at just 36 seconds, Ocampos scored the quickest goal in the Europa League this season, though the Argentine’s goal is still 25 seconds off Jan Sykora’s all-time record of scoring after 11 seconds.
Another assist for Florian Thauvin
What a season Thauvin is having!
One of the Ligue 1’s best creators this season, only Neymar (13) has assisted more goals in the French league than Thauvin’s 10.
And the Frenchman’s impressive run has continued into the Europa League, as he set up Ocampos for Marseilles’ first goal on Thursday.
In doing so, the midfielder who so struggled to make it at Newcastle United, made his 15th assist of the season in all competitions.
Only Kevin De Bruyne (19) and Neymar (16) have more assists for a team in Europe’s top five leagues in all competitions than Thauvin, who is level with Lionel Messi and Leroy Sane.
Red Bull Salzburg’s impressive European run continues
In shocking the Westfallenstadion, Salzburg ensured their impressive run in European competitions continued.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) March 8, 2018
The Austrian champions are now unbeaten in their last 18 games in Europe (11 wins, seven draws), having last lost to Nice in the third game of last season’s Europa League group stages.
Salzburg did start the current season in the Champions League qualifying but dropped down to the Europa League after being beaten on away goals by Croatian side HNK Rijeka in the third qualifying round, following a 1-1 draw.
Taking their game to a reinvigorated Dortmund side, which had not lost in 10 games, Salzburg scored two goals inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half to put them in the ascendancy of the tie.
Memphis Depay gets involved again in the Europa League
Having struggled to make much of an impact in the Premier League with Manchester United, Memphis Depay has found himself in a good run of form for Lyon – especially this season.
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) March 8, 2018
The Dutchman set up the only goal in his side’s 1-0 win over CSKA Moscow, as his corner was headed in by centre-back Marcelo.
The assist was Depay’s sixth goal involvement in this season’s Europa League, making his the first Dutch player involved in six Europa League goals since 2011/12.
Naby Keita yet again shows Liverpool fans what they can look forward to
While RB Leipzig may be disappointed to win their first leg 2-1 having taken a two-goal lead, Liverpool fans keeping an eye on their new signing would have been licking their lips.
Naby Keita was a driving force in midfield against Zenit and rightfully earned his fair share of the plaudits for Timo Werner’s goal.
Picking up the ball in his own half, the Guinean ran through his opposing players as if they weren’t there, before laying in a beautifully weighted ball to Werner.
While the German striker’s finish was no easy task – chipping it over the goalkeeper – the goal was all about the run from Keita.
The midfielder completed 93% of his passes and won five of his six attempted take-ons, running the show in the middle of the pitch.
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