There were 19 goals in four matches as the Europa League quarter-final first-leg games took place on Friday morning, with three thumping results as the home sides dominated. The three Portuguese sides will be pleased with their results as league champion FC Porto and Benfica routed Spartak Moskva and PSV Eindhoven respectively while Braga got a crucial draw (and away goal) at Dynamo Kyiv. In Spain, Villareal smashed Dutch outfit FC Twente 5-1.
FC Porto 5-1 FC Spartak Moskva
Falcao took his tally to a tournament-leading ten goals with his second European hat-trick this term as Porto established a healthy lead. The Dragons were three goals to the good, through Falcao’s 37th-minute opener and second-half efforts from Silvestre Varela and Maicon, when Kirill Kombarov gave the visitors hope. Falcao extinguished that, however, with a double in the closing six minutes which completed his second hat-trick in the competition this season and took him on to ten European goals overall.
Having won the Portuguese Liga title on Sunday, local hopes were high that Andre Villas-Boas’ side could continue the celebrations. It was the visitors, though, who went close to surprising their opponents in the opening stages, with Welliton guilty of spurning two fine opportunities. Spurred on by a vociferous home support, Porto slowly started to come into the game midway through the half, with the improving Hulk disappointed to see a dip at goal from the right fly past Andriy Dykan’s far post. Undeterred, the hosts continued to press and eventually found an opening eight minutes before the break.
Receiving possession in midfield, Joao Moutinho spread a pass left for Alvaro Pereira, whose menacing, bouncing centre was met by Falcao. He went close again shortly afterwards, this time aiming a downward header just wide of the upright after a cross from Hulk, who got things moving after the restart with a thumping free-kick that crashed down off the crossbar. With Valeri Karpin’s men beginning to fade, Porto took full advantage, going 2-0 up when Varela volleyed in Falcao’s chested pass. It would get worse for Spartak not long afterwards when a combination of Dykan and Dmitri Kombarov failed to deal with Maicon’s downward header from a Moutinho corner.
Spartak then received a lifeline within seconds when Kirill Kombarov – receiving Artem Dzyuba’s pass in acres of space – calmly slotted past Helton. That was as good as it got for Spartak, though, with Falcao scoring twice in the closing stages, first with gusto from close range after connecting with James Rodriguez’s cross and then completing his hat-trick by heading in Fernando Belluschi’s set piece.
FC Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 SC Braga SC
Braga came from behind to secure a 1-1 draw at FC Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of their quarter-final tie. Trailing to Andriy Yarmolenko’s sixth-minute opener, Braga rallied and equalised soon after when Oleh Gusev inadvertently turned into his own net – only the Portuguese side’s second European away goal since the start of the UEFA Champions League group stage.
The score remained level ahead of next week’s return, when Dynamo will be without Andriy Shevchenko – sent off on the hour for a second booking having come on at half-time.
SL Benfica 4-1 PSV Eindhoven
Jorge Jesus’ side will take a significant lead to the Netherlands thanks to goals from Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola and an Eduardo Salvio double. Benfica took a huge step towards a possible all-Portuguese semi-final against SC Braga thanks to Pablo Aimar’s strike and Salvio’s first before the break.
Zakaria Labyad gave the Dutch side hope after Salvio had extended the lead but Javier Saviola’s goal deep into added time sealed a convincing victory for the hosts. PSV have a mountain to climb in Eindhoven next Thursday.
Villarreal CF 5-1 FC Twente
Villarreal CF completed a wonderful week for Spain in Europe as they cruised to a stylish 5-1 victory against FC Twente that leaves them on the verge of the semi-finals. First-half goals from Carlos Marchena, Borja Valero and Nilmar set the Yellow Submarine on their way to a win that left Michel Preud’homme’s side tired, bewildered and well beaten. Exquisite efforts from Giuseppe Rossi and Nilmar again salted their wounds further, Marc Janko’s late header surely providing mere consolation.