Atletico Madrid, Arsenal FC in control in Europa League quarterfinals
Antoine Griezmann bagged his 17th goal of 2018 to seal Atletico Madrid’s 2-0 victory over Sporting in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals Thursday.
Alexandre Lacazette marked his return to the starting lineup with two goals to lead Arsenal past CSKA Moscow 4-1 in a game played amid a political crisis over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in Britain last month.
Leipzig edged past Marseille 1-0 while Lazio ended Salzburg’s unbeaten run of 35 games with a 4-2 win in Rome.
The second legs will be played on April 12.
ATLETICO ON TOP
Atletico, the Europa League winner in 2010 and 2012, showed Sporting no mercy.
Midfielder Koke struck after just 22 seconds following an inviting ball from Diego Costa.
Atletico, which has won all its Europa League games since dropping out of the Champions League earlier this season, then made it 2-0 when France striker Griezmann grabbed his 17th goal of 2018.
Arsenal stretched its winning streak to five games in all competitions with a fluent display of attacking football against CSKA.
After a good move in the ninth minute, Hector Bellerin collected the ball on the right before sending in a low cross for Aaron Ramsey to score.
CSKA quickly leveled when Aleksandr Golovin curled a free kick from 20 meters over the defensive wall and into the top corner.
Arsenal then restored its lead as Lacazette converted a penalty in the 23rd minute after Mesut Ozil was fouled.
Five minutes later Ramsey produced a bit of magic, volleying a pass from Ozil with his heel beyond goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Lacazette completed the scoring with a left-footed shot from inside the area after Ozil had set him up in the 35th minute.
The striker also scored from the spot on Sunday in a 3-0 victory over Stoke after returning from knee surgery as a substitute.
In a disappointing season that sees Arsenal occupying sixth place in the English Premier League, way behind in the race for one of the four Champions League berths, the Europa League is the club’s last chance of a trophy.
Winning European football’s second-tier competition would give Arsenal a route back into the Champions League.
“We know it’s not over,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We have to go there with the right focus and try to win the game.”
UNBEATEN STREAK OVER
Salzburg had not lost a game since a 1-0 defeat at Sturm Graz in the Austrian league on Aug 27 but Lazio captain Senad Lulic put his team ahead after eight minutes.
Valon Berisha equalized for the Austrian champion with a penalty in the 30th minute.
Lazio went back in front when Marco Parolo produced a backheel from a Luis Alberto pass before substitute Takumi Minamino equalized again for Salzburg.
The Italian club was not to be denied, though, as substitute Felipe Anderson and Ciro Immobile added two late goals.
WERNER ON TARGET
Germany striker Timo Werner scored in the dying seconds of the first half, his fourth Europa League goal, to give Leipzig victory against Marseille.