Friday, December 3, 2021

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Europa League: United to face Roma, Arsenal get Villarreal in semis

Roma sealed a lavish Europa League semi-final clash with Manchester United on Thursday after holding Ajax to a 1-1 draw to go through to the last four 3-2 on aggregate.

Edin Dzeko’s strike 18 minutes from time ensured the draw and passage for Paulo Fonseca’s side, who were on the back foot for most of the match, and a showdown with United who strolled into the semis 4-0 after a 2-0 win over La Liga outfit Granada at Old Trafford.

Italy’s only remaining representative in Europe came into the clash at the Stadio Olimpico with a slender lead but two away goals from last week’s first leg in Amsterdam.

Their European campaign looked in danger when Ajax teen Brian Brobbey was introduced for Antony at the break and the striker made an instant impact, racing onto Perr Schuurs pass three minutes after the restart and nipped the ball past an onrushing Pau Lopez.

However after Dusan Tadic’s strike for the away side six minutes later was ruled out for a foul on Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the buildup, Dzeko tipped the tie in Roma’s favour.

The Bosnian was on hand to tap home the leveller which put Roma a goal ahead on aggregate after Riccardo Calafiori’s low cross was deflected into his path.

Roma will be hoping to gain revenge on United for the 7-1 hammering they suffered at Old Trafford at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League in 2007.

United had few problems against Granada, who had a mountain to climb after losing the first leg 2-0 in Spain.

Edinson Cavani opened the scoring after just five minutes to put United ahead on the night when he lashed home Paul Pogba’s looping knockdown.

The away side pressed and had some chances but Jesus Valleho’s last-minute own goal sealed the win for United, who could yet have an all-English final with Arsenal.

The other semifinal will see Arsenal face Villarreal after thumping Slavia Prague 4-0 to go through 5-1 on aggregate.

Behind on away goals thanks to Tomas Holes’ stoppage-time leveller at the Emirates Stadium last week, Arsenal ended Slavia’s 23-match unbeaten run thanks to a six-minute blitz from Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka in the first half that sealed the tie.

Lacazette scored his second of the night in the 77th minute, collecting Pepe’s low cross before drilling home a left-foot finish that put the cherry on the cake for Mikel Arteta’s side.

Villarreal are coached by Unai Emery, who was succeeded by Arteta at the Emirates, and is on course to claim his fourth Europa League crown as a coach after his side made short work of Dinamo Zagreb in a 2-1 win to qualify 3-1 on aggregate.

Paco Alacer opened the scoring nine minutes before the break when he finished off a superb team move and Gerard Moreno continued a career-best season shortly afterwards, firing home his sixth goal in the competition after Dominik Livakovic’s save.

Mislav Orsic salvaged some pride for Dinamo with 16 minutes left, but a comeback never looked to be on the cards and the hosts sailed through.

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