Europa League roundup: Juventus eliminates Fiorentina; Sevilla needs penalty kicks to see out rival Betis

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Real Betis earned a shock win last week at the Sanchez Pizjuan, its 2-0 lead after leg one of its Europa League Round of 16 matchup with rival Sevilla giving the verdiblancos hope a run in Europe could overshadow a relegation-destined campaign. But Gabriel Calderón’s team is ultimately a 20th place side, which made Sevilla’s comeback today at the Estadio Benito Villamarín less remarkable than expected. After 90 minutes of the second Seville derby in eight days, the visitors had forced extra time with their own 2-0 result.

Thirty minutes later, the teams’ quarterfinals fates would be decided by penalty kicks. After Vitolo opened with a miss for Sevilla, each team make their next three, leaving Alfred N’Diaye’s miss to bring the rojiblancos even at the end of the fourth round. A conversation from Ivan Rakitic followed by a miss from Nono sent Unai Emery’s side through.

Form may go out the window in derbies, but over 180 minutes, talent has a better chance of shining through. After one leg, Real Betis were on the verge of seeing its rivals out of Europe. Seven days later, they’re the ones on the outside looking in, no longer holding out hope Europa can offset their inevitable return to the second division.


  • Anzhi Makhachkala 0-0 (0-1) AZ Alkmaar – Aron Johannsson’s early penalty kick in leg one ends up sending last year’s Dutch Cup winners into Europa’s final eight.
  • Valencia 1-0 (4-0) Ludogrets – The Bulgarians’ three-goal loss at home sealed their fate, with Pace Alcácer’s second half score that the Mestalla confirming their ouster.
  • Viktoria Plzen 2-1 (3-5) Olympique Lyonnais – Bafetimbi Gomis’s goal just before half time put Lyon up four. It also cancelled out the Czech champions’ away goal. Goals near the hour from Daniel Kolár and Stanislav Teci made the final more respectable.
  • Benfica 2-2 (5-3) Tottenham Hotspur – Much like in Plzen, an early goal confirmed the first leg’s lopsided result. Nacer Chadli, however, tried to bring Spurs back with a late brace only to see Lima’s 95th minute penalty kick conversation see Tottenham out of Europe.
  • Fiorentina 0-1 (1-2) Juventus – A piece of free kick magic from Andrea Pirlo saw Juventus take the lead in the 71st minute, with the 10-man Viola left short-handed after Gonzalez Rodríguez’s 69th minute dismissal.
  • Napoli 2-2 (2-3) Porto – Second half goals from Nabil Ghilas and Ricardo Quaresma left Porto up two after Goran Pandev’s early opener. Needing three goals to go through, the partenopei would only get Duván Zapata’s stoppage time consolation.
  • Red Bull Salzburg 1-2 (1-2) Basel – Held scoreless in leg one, Basel saw Marek Suchy sent off in the ninth minute. Soon after, Jonathan Soriano gave Red Bull a 1-0 lead. In the second half, though, a 10-man Basel saw Marco Streller score the decisive goal in the 50th minute, with Gaston Sauro adding insurance 10 minutes later.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.