It is only the fourth season of the Europa League but already it has provided us with many sensational matches where teams battled right to the final whistle.
As the participants of the 2012/13 Europa League prepare for the return leg of the Round of 32, lets take a look at six of the greatest Europa League knockout ties so far:
SV Werder Bremen 5-5 Valencia CF (09/10)
A 1-1 draw in the first leg as the Mestalla offered little indication of what was to follow as this Round of 16 tie concluded with Valencia winning on away goals in Germany.
Juan Mata had pulled Valenica level on home soil after Ever Banega’s dismissal but it was David Villa who starred in the return leg. The Spain international’s third-minute effor set Unai Emery’s team on their way at the Weserstadion and Mata allowed them some breathing space.
Hugo Almeida gave Werder Bremen hope before another Villa goal looked to have put the tie beyond the hosts. However, Torsten Frings and Marko Marin briefly made Valencia sweat prior to Villa completing his hat-trick.
Even then, Claudio Pizarro struck six minutes from the end to ensure that La Liga outfit were forced to rely on away goals.
David Villa said after the game:
“It was the craziest game I’ve ever played in.
“There were so many chances; there should have been even more goals. It was like playing when I was a kid at school.”
Result: Valencia won on away goals.
Fulham FC 5-4 Juventus (09/10)
Fulham were meant to throw in the towel after losing 3-1 in Turin in the first leg of this Round of 16 tie. Indeed when David Trezeguet put the Bianconeri in front at Craven Cottage inside two minutes, Roy Hodgson’s side looked positively doomed.
Bobby Zamora struck back soon enough and Fabio Cannavaro was dismissed inside the half-hour mark, but Fulham still needed three unanswered goals merely to force extra time.
Though Zoltan Gera got the first just before half-time and the second soon after, Juventus proved a tough nut to crack thereafter. It require something special and Clint Dempsey duly provided it with a sumptuous chip eight minutes from time.
Dempsey told the reporters:
“When I got the ball I was wondering whether to shoot it or try to dink it towards the far post but it came into my mind to go for it.
“So I just went with it. Nine times out of ten I don’t think I’d have hit it as well as I did.”
RSC Anderlecht 5-6 Hamburger SV (09/10)
Pushed all the way by PSV Eindhoven in the Round of 32, Hamburg looked certain to enjoy an easier ride in the last 16 as goals from Joris Mathijsen, Ruud van Nistelrooy and captain David Jarolim earned them a heatlthy 3-1 first leg lead.
Indeed, they looked to be cruising into the quarterfinals after Jerome Boateng’s 42nd-minute opener in Brussels, only for Romelu Lukaku’s header and a Matias Suarez penalty to put Anderlecht ahead before the break.
Though Marcell Jansen’s early second-half strike dampened home hopes of a remarkable comeback, efforts from Lucas Biglia and Mbark Boussoufa put Anderlecht just a goal away from qualification. With Hamburg on the rack, Mladen Petric’s cool finish finally put the tie to bed once and for all.
Marcell Jansen told UEFA.com:
“Incredible. It was a crazy game.
“We are delighted to have progressed, that was the most important thing. We shouldn’t be conceding goals that easily, though.”
Villarreal CF 4-7 FC Porto (10/11)
Still riding the crest of a wave following their 10-3 demolition of Spartak Moskva on aggregate in the quarterfinals, Porto all but secured a place in the Dublin showpiece with a 5-1 first-leg win at home to Villarreal.
Though the yellow submarine were in front at the interval, they could scarcely have prepared for Radamel Falcao – who scored four goals in a stunning second-half performance.
Jual Carlos Garrido’s charges battled valiantly at El Madrigal, but were 2-1 behind on the night after 38 minutes despite once again taking the lead through Cani.
Even a 7-2 overall deficit failed to subdue them, though. Joan Capdevila and Giuseppe Rossi both scoring late on to restore respectability to the scoreline.
Falcao said after the second leg:
“My job is to score the goals which take the stress away from the team, to make matches easier.
“I just need to keep doing that.”
Athletic Club Bilbao 5-3 Manchester United FC (11/12)
This competition, to some observers, was there for the taking for Manchester United after they had failed to progress from the Champions League group stage for only the third time.
Though Ajax were dispatched in the Round of 32, Alex Ferguson’s side had not bargained for such enterprising opponents in the last 16.
Wayne Rooney put United front at Old Trafford and converted a late penalty but Athletic Bilbao scored three time in between through Fernando Llorente, Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain to record a first win on English soil.
Llorente – with a glorious volley – and de Marcos were on the mark in a similarly energetic performance in Bilbao. It meant, Rooney’s late drive was just a mere consolation.
Oscar de Marcos concluded:
“We played two fantastic legs are we were switched on from the start of both game, as were our fans.
“We really enjoyed ourselves, each and every one of us playing and combining well on the field – that was the key.”
FC Schalke 04 4-2 FC Viktoria Plzen (11/12)
Viktoria Plzen looked well set to be in pole position in the first leg of this Round of 32 offering, but Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s predatory strike with 15 minutes remaining gave Schalke 04 the advantage of an away goal.
The Netherlands forward then struck eight minutes into the Gelsenkirchen return to put Schalke in charge of the tie. The 60th minuted dismissal of Marek Bakos put Plzen’s backs firmly against the wall.
The Czech champions were in defiant mood though. They forced the tie into extra time thanks to Frantisek Rajtoral’s effort two minutes from time.
However, Huud Stevens’ team did not allow the pendulum to shift any further and wrapped up their aggregate triumph through Huntelaar’s header and his hat-trick goal at the deat.
Huntelaar told reporters:
“We didn’t want penalties because we were on top in extra time. We wanted to end it and, thankfully, we managed to do that.”