Cliche time: this is why they play the matches.
Valencia entered the second leg of its UEFA Europa League quarterfinal tie against Basel down 3-0 and needing extreme home magic to find renewed hope for a semifinal berth.
Well, they found that wizardry and then some. Valencia scored thrice in regulation and then watched as Basel took not one but two red cards in the first period of extra time en route to a 5-0 win, 5-3 on aggregate.
Francisco “Paco” Alcacer scored twice in regulation before finding a winner in the 114th minute to dust off the championship hopes of Los Che. Juan Bernat and Eduardo Vargas also scored for Valencia as they advanced. Alcacer now has seven goals in European competition and 14 overall this season.
They are joined by Juventus, Benfica and Sevilla in a Western Europe-heavy final four.
Juventus received a scare from visiting Lyon, but emerge with plans intact to play the Europa League final on its home pitch. Andrea Pirlo scored in the fourth minute to give the Old Lady a 2-0 lead before Lyon halved the deficit in the 18th minute. Yet it was a 68th minute own goal that gave Juve clear sailing into the semis.
Sevilla faced a 1-0 deficit to Porto entering Thursday’s home leg, but that was erased rather quickly as Los Rojiblancos struck four times on the night. Ivan Rakitic converted a 5th minute penalty to kick off a 4-1 (4-2 aggregate) win that was completed by red-hot Kevin Gameiro’s 79th minute tally. Ricardo Quaresma’s goal in the second minute of stoppage time was the only blemish on Sevilla’s day.
Benfica dismissed American forward Aron Johannsson and AZ Alkmaar with relative ease, as Johannsson’s best play actually came on a hard-charging tackle to save a scoring chance. Leading 1-0 going into the home leg, 23-year-old Rodrigo recorded a brace to send the Portuguese side through.
The draw for the semifinals will be held Friday, with the legs being played on April 24 and May 1.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday