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Arsenal, Man Utd, Rangers into Europa League last 16 as Leicester exit

Paris (AFP) – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice including a late winner as Arsenal qualified for the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over Benfica in Greece, while Manchester United and Rangers cruised through to the next round.

The Gabon striker put Arsenal ahead at the Karaiskakis stadium in Piraeus in their home leg of a tie relocated due to Covid-19 travel restrictions between Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Diogo Goncalves levelled the contest with a magnificent free-kick and Rafa Silva gave Benfica a 2-1 lead on the night when he took advantage of an error from Dani Ceballos on the hour.

Kieran Tierney rifled in an equaliser and Aubameyang headed in the decisive goal from Bukayo Saka’s cross on 87 minutes, earning the Gunners a 4-3 aggregate victory and saving them from an unusual away goals exit following a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Rome.

“Everyone is happy tonight. This is what gives me power every day, take errors from the past and transform to strength,” Aubameyang told BT Sport.

“The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future.”

United cemented their place in Friday’s draw with a 0-0 draw at home to Real Sociedad, having effectively clinched the tie last week with an emphatic 4-0 win on neutral ground in Italy. 

Mikel Oyarzabal’s awful penalty miss represented the best chance at Old Trafford for La Real, while Bruno Fernandes rattled the crossbar and Axel Tuanzebe’s header was disallowed for a foul.

Leicester City, who are behind second-placed United in the Premier League only on goal difference, were knocked out after sliding to a 2-0 loss at home to Czech champions Slavia Prague.

Lukas Provod fired Slavia in front just after half-time following a goalless draw in the first leg, and Senegalese teenager Abdallah Sima ensured the visitors extended their run in the competition.

“We didn’t create enough over two legs. We didn’t defend with any intensity. We gave away two disappointing goals. The better team won,” said Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers.

– Gerrard praises ‘outstanding’ Rangers –

Steven Gerrard’s Rangers progressed following their 5-2 win over Belgian side Antwerp at Ibrox, with five different players on target for the Scottish league leaders.

After a dramatic 4-3 win in the first leg last week, goals from Alfredo Morelos, Nathan Patterson and Ryan Kent put Rangers in control before late penalties from Borna Barisic and Cedric Itten wrapped up the tie 9-5 on aggregate.

“I’m very satisfied, the performance was outstanding in a lot of areas,” said Gerrard.

“The first three were top high-level goals. But, as a perfectionist, we still have to look at the areas we went wrong tonight.”

AC Milan squeezed past Red Star Belgrade on away goals after a 1-1 draw in a clash of former European champions at the San Siro.

Franck Kessie’s early penalty was enough to book Milan’s place in the last 16 despite El Fardou Ben Nabouhane equalising as the tie finished 3-3 over the two legs.

Napoli’s dismal run continued as they were knocked out 3-2 on aggregate by Granada despite winning 2-1 in the return fixture in Italy.

Ajax eliminated French Ligue 1 leaders Lille with a 2-1 victory in Amsterdam to complete a 4-2 overall win, while Gerard Moreno netted both goals as Villarreal dumped out Salzburg 4-1 on aggregate.

Egyptian forward Ahmed Hassan’s 88th-minute strike in Eindhoven sent Olymiapkos through at the expense of PSV 5-4 on aggregate, while Roma and Young Boys brushed aside Braga and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.

Former winners Shakhtar Donetsk completed a 3-0 aggregate victory over Maccabi Tel-Aviv, while Norwegians Molde dumped out Hoffenheim 5-3 on aggregate following a 2-0 win in Germany. 

Dinamo Zagreb and Dynamo Kiev complete the line-up for the last 16, with Tottenham Hotspur also in the mix after destroying Wolfsberg of Austria by an aggregate score of 8-1 on Wednesday.

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  1. Nosferatu

    February 27, 2021 at 5:57 pm

    Arsenal have been quite hard to figure out. I’m not nearly as negative on Arteta as some fans, but of course he’s had his own growing pains. This year was always going to be about figuring out a lot of things, and I think they’re doing that, Arteta included.

    Having Partey healthy makes a massive difference, and figuring out that playing with a real No. 10, be it Smith-Rowe or Odegaard, changes the dynamic. And Saka on the right is a game-changer. They’ve been a much more dynamic team since the changes made starting on Boxing Day, so I’m hoping we can see that growth continue and maybe see things gel and lead to actually progress in the table and in the Europa League. Still lots to figure out before hitting the transfer window this summer, but I feel much better than I did two months ago.

  2. Roberto

    February 27, 2021 at 9:39 am

    Arsenal have been somewhat of mystery. So much talent but very uneven play, something missing. Years ago we called it heart or work rate. With the millions players receive, you do not always get your monies worth. Manbe they will benefit from a good Europa league run.
    For sure, Leicester will be better off with less games. As Kartik pointed out, they are without a LOT of players. More depth then last year but not where near the depth of the former big 6. Not like Chelsea with a big roster and 70 players on loan!

  3. Jesus

    February 27, 2021 at 7:16 am

    Realistically only Manchester United and Spurs have the squad and talent to win the Europa League this season. Arsenal are long shots but given their league position might fight harder in the EL as their only way to get into the Champions League next season. I still think they will fall short.

    Leicester are actually going to benefit the most by not being in the EL as they can now concentrate on the league and have time to prepare for each remaining match and time to recover. They will now be favored to finish in the top 4.

  4. Nosferatu

    February 27, 2021 at 12:51 am

    Well, if I’ve learned one thing as a fan of the PL (and especially as an Arsenal fan!) it’s that commentators and pundits and, in turn, a lot of fans love to jump to conclusions and use hyperbole when doing so.

    I do think in a way that it is more important for Leicester, but that’s because of the league positions of the clubs. Arsenal at this point would be wise to prioritize the Europa League (and with that in mind, give the “extremely fatigued” Bukayo Saka, in the words of Mikel Arteta, a breather on Sunday), whereas for Leicester, being out of the Europa League could actually be beneficial to their top-four aspirations, particularly as they’re already struggling with some injuries and might not have the depth to deal with many more.

  5. Roberto

    February 26, 2021 at 8:04 pm

    I believe it is more important for Leicester. Commentators (the usual big four mouthpieces) are already deciding Thursday was the beginning of Leicester’s collapse. Rather then their semi-regular off game.

  6. Nosferatu

    February 26, 2021 at 7:24 pm

    @Roberto, I don’t know how much weight I’d put into this game for either team. Arsenal flying back from Greece on Thursday night to play in the early slot on Sunday, and Leicester not having the travel but still having played and lost on Thursday, both teams likely missing some key players due to injuries or fatigue.

  7. Roberto

    February 26, 2021 at 7:18 pm

    This weekend will show if Arsenal are for real or just a bunch of slackers like they have been most of the season. It will also be a test to see if Leicester are really a possible top four team at the end of the season.

  8. Mercator

    February 26, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    Tierney and Saka give me a hope for Arsenal I haven’t had in a while. Hope Zlatan gives you lot the boot.

  9. rkujay

    February 26, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    Theoretically, pigs could fly.


  10. Vasil

    February 26, 2021 at 11:45 am

    If Arsenal players will have the same perseverance in the future games they can will this title.

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