And then there were four. That’s right, the semifinals of the 2015-16 UEFA Europa League are set, following the conclusion of the four quarterfinal ties on Thursday.
Zenit St. Petersburg 2-2 (3-4 agg.) Sevilla
Sevilla, who already held a 2-1 lead after the first leg, struck first and early when Carlos Bacca converted from the penalty spot in the 6th minute. Luis Neto tripped up Vitolo inside the penalty area moments before, and put away his 23rd goal of the season (all competitions).
It took Zenit less than three minutes of the second half to pull a goal back, making the tie 3-2 on aggregate. Sevilla goalkeeper Beto fumbled a harmless, wayward cross just in front of the goal line, spilling the ball at the feet of Zenit’s Salomon Rondo, who made Beto pay for the mistake and hammered the ball into the back of the net.
Hulk put the home side ahead on the day and level on aggregate (3-3) with one of the goals of the tournament (72nd minute). Beto’s nightmare evening was made much worse when Hulk caught the Portuguese ‘keeper well off his line and went for the chip from 40 yards out on the sideline (below video). Beto scrambled back and leapt at the last moment, but Hulk’s lofted ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced off the ground inside the goal.
The ultimate hero, though, was Sevilla’s Kevin Gameiro who finished a lethal counter attack with a powerful strike just inside the far post. Vitolo’s field-switching through ball put Gameiro into acres of space, where the French striker unleashed his powerful, left-footed shot to beat Juri Lodygin.
Fiorentina 2-0 (3-1 agg.) Dynamo Kyiv
Mario Gomez gave Fiorentina, who held a slim lead thanks to an away goal in the first leg (1-1 draw), a slightly bigger cushion with his delicate finish from five yards out, merely redirecting Joaquin’s wayward shot into the penalty area. Gomez’s goal came in the 43rd minute, three minutes after Dynamo were reduced to 10 men following Jeremain Lens’ second yellow card.
Juan Vargas added a second goal, a pinpoint strike from a tough angle, for Fiorentina deep into stoppage time (94th minute), to send the Viola into the semifinals with a bit of flair and the proverbial exclamation point.
Elsewhere in Europa League (italicized team advances)
Napoli 2-2 (6-3 agg.) Wolfsburg
Dnipro 1-0 (1-0 agg.) Club Brugges
The semifinal draws for the Champions League and Europa League will each be held on Friday (5 am ET) in Nyon, Switzerland.