Europa League: Alonso gives Chelsea advantage over Slavia Prague, and more (video)

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In what had been a quiet affair, it was Marcos Alonso of all people who popped up late to score the winning goal.

Chelsea defeated Slavia Prague, 1-0 on a header in the 84th minute by Alsonso, latching onto a terrific cross from Willian to find the breakthrough. The win puts Chelsea in the driver’s seat to advance to the Europa League semifinals, with a lead and an away goal.

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The goal is a big boost for Marcos Alonso, who has struggled mightily at times this year and has been benched in recent Premier League games for Emerson as the team’s left wing back. In addition, it cools the coach’s seat ever more for Maurizio Sarri, who could still secure a top-four finish and even potentially win the Europa League.

Slavia Prague was lively and energetic in the opening half hour, putting pressure on Chelsea’s defense and pinning the Blues back in their own half for long stretches. However, Slavia never managed to get a good shot on target, with strikes either right at Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa or wife of the net.

Willian, who was dangerous all night along the wings, hit a shot off the crossbar in the 25th minute, but that was the extent of Chelsea’s dangerous chances. That is, until Eden Hazard was introduced 14 minutes into the second half. Hazard’s dribbling ability and skill on the ball forced Slavia to shade his way, which led to more Chelsea chances down Willian’s side, and eventually may have played a role in the winner.

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Elsewhere, Benfica’s 19-year-old budding star Joao Felix had himself a day, scoring a hat-trick as Benfica topped Eintracht Frankfurt, 4-2. Felix scored a hat-trick, fired home a laser into the bottom corner, and then scored on a low strike in the box. Felix also had an assist off a corner kick that was headed in. It was a heck of a match for the teenager, and if Europe’s biggest clubs weren’t already on his radar, they are now.

In Spain, former Arsenal midfielder Santi Cazorla scored a penalty kick but it wasn’t enough as Valencia picked up a confidence-boosting 3-1 win on the road over Villarreal. Portugal international Goncalo Guedes finished with two goals for Valencia.

At the Half: Ramsey, Torreira help give Arsenal early lead, Chelsea still scoreless

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Arsenal started Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil together for one of the few times all season.

So of course, Arsenal’s two central midfielders have found the scoresheet so far.

At halftime, Arsenal holds an impressive 2-0 lead over Napoli at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday evening, with Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Torreira both finding the back of the net. Ramsey scored in the 14th minute off a great pass in the box from Ainsley Maitland-Niles while Torreira created his own goal almost out of nothing.

Torreira forced a turnover at midfield and then ran at Napoli’s defense before switching the ball to his left foot and unleashing a low strike. The shot deflected off Napoli star centerback Kalidou Koulibaly and wrong-footed goalkeeper Alex Meret for a goal. The goal has been listed as an own goal, but it may have been on target before the deflection.

In the Czech Republic, Chelsea is holding strong to a scoreless tie with Slavia Prague.

Here’s a look at Arsenal’s two first half goals.

Chelsea confirm alleged racist abuse of one of its players

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Chelsea have confirmed that one of their players was subjected to alleged racist abuse in Ukraine on Thursday.

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Various reports state that Callum Hudson-Odoi was racially abused by a group of Dynamo Kiev fans in the final minutes of Chelsea’s 5-0 UEFA Europa League last 16 win in the Ukrainian capital.

Although the club haven’t confirmed which player was allegedly abused, it has stated that European soccer’s governing body are investigating the incident.

Here are more details from a club statement:

“We can confirm a report of racist abuse directed at one of our players in the final minutes of the match in Kiev from a small section of home supporters. We wholeheartedly condemn such abhorrent behavior. The matter was reported to the referee at the final whistle and the chairman and club secretary spoke to the UEFA match delegate immediately after the match. We expect UEFA to conduct a fulsome investigation and we will provide full cooperation.”

Europa League wrap: Valencia advance with dramatic stoppage time goal

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Valencia was on the verge of being knocked out of the UEFA Europa League in the round of 16 for the second consecutive year. Then Goncalo Guedes showed why he’s one of the top young attackers in Europe.

Deep in second half stoppage time, the Portuguese international used a shoulder faint to get past a defender in the box, took a touch, and then slotted home with his left foot to send the visiting Valencia squad into hysterics. The goal gave Valencia a 1-1 draw on the evening but a 3-2 aggregate win over FC Kuban Krasnodar. With the win, Valencia advances to the Europa League quarterfinals.

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Guedes’ strike followed an outstanding curling goal into the top corner by Krasnodar’s 19-year-old midfielder Magomed Suleymanov, which had put Krasnodar in position to advance to the next round.

Elsewhere in Europa League action, Inter Milan were bounced from the tournament by Eintracht Frankfurt. One of the top young attackers in Europe, Luka Jovic, scored the game’s only goal in the 6th minute. It’s an earlier-than-expected end to European competition for big spending Inter.

Here are the other finals from across Thursday’s Europa League action:

RB Salzburg 3-1 Napoli (3-4 agg.)

Benfica 3-0 AET Dinamo Zagreb (3-0 agg.)

Slavia Prague 4-3 AET Sevilla (6-5 agg.)

Villarreal 2-1 Zenit St. Petersburg (5-2 agg.)

Europa League: Arsenal complete comeback over Rennes

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In recent weeks, when Arsenal has been under pressure and against the odds, Unai Emery has pushed all the right buttons.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brace and Arsenal completed an incredible comeback from a two-goal aggregate deficit, defeating Rennes, 3-0 on Thursday evening, 4-3 on aggregate. Ainsley Maitland-Niles scored in-between Aubameyang’s pair to help lead Arsenal to the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals.

Aubameyang only needed four minutes to put Arsenal in front on the night, latching onto a cross in the box and finding the back of the net.

Maitland-Niles made it 2-0 after some Rennes defenders lost focus, expecting the referee to stop the action for offside.

Ultimately, Arsenal continued to push for a third goal, but Rennes was holding up much stronger defensively. Yet in the 72nd minute, Sead Kolasinac made his way down the left side and crossed into the middle to Aubameyang, who scored past Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek.