Home teams take leads in first legs of Europa League semifinals

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Carlos Tévez’s late goal at the Estadio da Luz looked destined to give Juventus a valuable draw in Portugal, but thanks to a 84th blast from Lima into the top of Gianluigi Buffon’s net, Benfica was able to restore the lead it’d held for 71 minutes, giving the Portuguese champions a 2-1 lead at half time of the teams’  Europa League semifinal battle.

On the other side of the bracket, Sevilla used first half goals from Stephane M’bia and Carlos Bacca to take a 2-0 lead over fellow La Liga side Valencia ahead of next week’s return leg at the Mestalla.

The four teams are fighting for spots in May 14’s final in Turin, with Juventus favored to claim the club’s seventh major European honor. After one minute in Lisbon, however, the Old Lady’s hope of enjoying a major final at home was delivered a small blow.

That’s when Ezequiel Garay, on a second minute corner for Miralem Sulejmani, headed into the right of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal, giving the recently crowned Liga Sagres champions a quick lead. Juventus seized control of the game yet were unable to break through until the 73rd minute, when Tévez’s goal from 10 yards out threatened to send the match back to Italy even. Seven minutes from time, however, Lima beat Buffon from the right of the penalty area to give Benfica the one-goal lead – compensation for having given up a potentially valuable away goal.

At the Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla opened the scoring with M’Bia’s goal in the 33rd minute, a score Bacca’s far post finish three minutes later made into a two-goal advantage. Though they ceded possession throughout (holding only 41 percent of the ball), Sevilla was able to maintain that edge to the final whistle, though an 88th minute Eduardo Vargas header off Beto’s cross bar nearly duplicated Juventus’s feat of snaring an away goal.

Instead, Valencia will return home need two goals to turn climb out of the hole it’s dug in Seville. Juventus, on the other hand, could confirm that final on home soil with a 1-0 win next Thursday.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia

Jurgen Klopp announced as new Liverpool manager

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC
Liverpool Football Club/Getty Images
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Enough with the speculation and reports already, because it’s finally officially official: Jurgen Klopp has been appointed the newest manager of Liverpool Football Club, the Merseyside club announced on Thursday.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Klopp will be unveiled to the world at an introductory press conference at Anfield on Friday.

According to early reports, Klopp’s three-year contract could pay him as much as $10 million per season.

[ QUOTE KING: Top 10 “Klopp-isms” from his time at Dortmund ]

The 48-year-old German has been out of work since stepping down at Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund following a seventh-place finish to the 2014-15 season. Klopp’s seven seasons in charge of Dortmund weren’t without success and silverware, though, as he led Der BVB to back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012, a German Cup triumph in 2012 and a UEFA Champions League final appearance in 2013.

PST’s Joe Prince-Wright will be at Anfield on Friday for Klopp’s unveiling, so be sure to follow JPW on Twitter and check back to PST for wall-to-wall coverage of Klopp’s first press conference as Liverpool manager.