In the shadow of the start of Champions League knockout stage play, the Europa League has also begun the elimination stage of its competition, and it’s already provided plenty of fireworks.
In Round of 32 action, Premier League sides struggled on the road, as 10-man Arsenal fell 1-0 at BATE Borisov and Chelsea squeaked past Malmo despite being troubled at the back often.
[ RECAP: Arsenal fails to score in loss to BATE Borisov ]
[RECAP: Chelsea tops Malmo ]
Elsewhere, Inter clung to an early lead and topped Rapid Vienna 1-0 behind a 39th minute penalty from 21-year-old Lautaro Martínez. The Italian club was without main striker Mauro Icardi amid uncertainty surrounding the stripping of his captaincy. In his place, his fellow Argentinian was a problem for Vienna the whole match, earning four fouls, including the penalty that led to his goal.
Dynamo Kiev picked up a solid road result, earning a 2-2 draw with Olympiakos in Greece on a goal by Benjamin Verbic in the 89th minute to secure the level scoreline. Ahmed Hassan opened the scoring for the hosts inside the first 10 minutes with a left-footed strike after strong hold-up play from Konstantinos Fortounis, while Vitaliy Buyalskiy leveled for Dynamo before the half-hour mark on a sliding cross by Tomasz Kedziora. Before the halftime break, Gil Dias delivered maybe the goal of the day with an unbelievable volley from at least 27 yards out, chesting the ball down and letting it bounce once before unleashing an stunning left-footed blast. The home fans enjoyed that until the very end when Viktor Tsygankov headed down a lofted delivery to the middle of the box for Verbic to bounce into the back of the net.
Real Betis picked up a similar result, pulling out a late 3-3 draw at French club Stade Rennais that sets the La Liga side up well for the return leg in Spain. Stade Rennais scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes and were up 3-1 at the halftime break on a penalty from Hatem Ben Arfa just before the whistle, but the visitors fought back and in the 90th minute, 18-year-old Mexican international Diego Lainez somehow tucked a low strike inside the far post despite at a ridiculously awkward body angle.
Benfica picked up a 2-1 road victory at Turkish side Galatasaray on a beautiful 64th minute goal by Haris Seferovic. The Swiss international latched onto a brilliant long-ball by 21-year-old Ruben Dias and used his strength to beat the defender and bag a fabulous finish past Fernando Muslera.
Sevilla grabbed an early 1-0 lead on a flowing counter-attack finished off by Wissam Ben Yedder, and the Spanish side held on for a key road victory over Lazio in Italy. There were only three total shots on target between the two sides in the entire match, with Sevilla holding Lazio to just a single one.
Napoli eased past FC Zurich 3-1 in Switzerland behind early goals by Arkadiusz Milik Jose Callejon, with Pitor Zielinski finishing off the scoreline 13 minutes from time. The visitors could have had more as Kalidou Koulibaly and Zielinski both missed first-half chances, with Milik coming close after the break.
Celtic fell at home to Valencia 2-0, with Denis Cheryshev and Ruben Sobrino bracketing halftime with goals. Cheryshev has struggled in front of net for much of the season after his big World Cup, but his goalscoring form has picked up of late, with three goals in his last five matches across all competitions. Celtic brought USMNT youngster Timothy Weah on in the 59th minute, but the home side was unable to get on the scoresheet.
Shakhtar Donetsk held on for a 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt in the Ukraine despite falling a man down just 11 minutes into the match. Shakhtar took the lead nine minutes in as Marlos slotted home a penalty, but Taras Stepanenko picked up his second yellow card in the early going, leaving the home side with a man disadvantage.
A third-minute goal was all Villareal needed to skate by 10-man Sporting CP in Portugal. Alfonso Pedraza charged down a loose ball just outside the box and blasted it into the back of the net for the early lead, one which the home side could never chase down.
Club Brugge grabbed an important late 2-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg as 22-year-old Brazilian striker Wesley scored nine minutes from the final whistle. The Belgian side trailed 1-0 at home after a 17th minute away goal from Austrian international Zlatko Junuzovic, but charged back to slide into the advantage heading into the second leg in Salzburg.
All Europa League results:
BATE Borisov 1-0 Arsenal
Malmo 1-2 Chelsea
Lazio 0-1 Sevilla
Galatasaray 1-2 Benfica
Rapid Vienna 0-1 Internazionale
Stade Rennais 3-3 Real Betis
Shakhtar Donetsk 2-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Sporting CP 0-1 Valencia
Olympiakos 2-2 Dynamo Kiev
Celtic 0-2 Valencia
FC Zurich 1-3 Napoli
Club Brugge 2-1 RB Salzburg
Viktoria Plzen 2-1 Dinamo Zagreb
Krasnodar 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Slavia Prague 0-0 Racing Genk