La Liga sides do the business in the Europa League
Athletic Club overcame a spirited Marseille effort; Villarreal got past Napoli; Seville stuttered past Molde while Valencia showed no mercy against Rapid Viena.
Napoli 1-1 Villarreal (1-2)
Marcelino Garcia’s Villarreal secured their passage to the Europa Leauge last-16 at the San Paolo against the Serie A front-runners Napoli after adding a 1-1 result to the 1-0 win they recorded a week ago at El Madrigal.
The Yellows came close to taking an early lead in the Mezzogiorno ground when a Bakambu effort was kept out by an excellent Pepe Reina. Hamsik levelled the tie for Maurizo Sarri’s men soon afterwards with a rasping volley from outside the box that flew into the bottom corner of Areloa’s goal. After scoring Napoli dominated the rest of the first half and should have added another.
Villarreal reasserted themselves and played far more aggressively after the break with Bakambu causing the Italian backline a few moments of concern. However, the Spaniards’ goal came from an unlikely source when, from outside the box, Tomas Pina curled the ball over Reina’s head and into the far corner from an absurdly tight angle.
The hosts tried in vein to score twice in the half an hour that remained but Villarreal kept the Europa League favourites at bay to book their ticket to march on in the competition.
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Marseille (2-1)
The Lions paid tribute to Rafael Iriondo with a spirited comeback against Michel’s Ligue 1 side. With ten minutes left on the clock De Marcos launched the ball forward towards Susaeta, the winger whipped in a bullet of a cross across the visitors’ box and Sabin Merino stirred it home with a header at the back post.
The sigh of relief in San Mamés was palpable as the Basques had been lacking in creativity throughout the encounter and a nervous atmosphere began to take hold at the Cathedral after Batshuayi pounced on a loose ball five minutes before the half-time whistle before driving it past Herrerin into the back of the net.
Molde 1-0 Sevilla (1-3)
Despite losing at the Aker Stadion, Unai Emery’s charges’ passage to the next round never looked in doubt against the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-managed underdogs. The Andalusians never got out of first gear but a resounding first leg win made their Scandinavian visit something of a formality.
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