Football Features

Europa League quarter-finals: Six things you might have missed as Atalanta shock Liverpool

By James Amey

Published: 22:16, 11 April 2024

The Europa League quarter-finals got underway this week, with the remaining eight sides playing their first leg ties. 

We saw Liverpool and Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen and West Ham, Milan and Roma & Benfica and Marseille go head-to-head trying to get an advantage for the return leg next week.

With so much football on a Thursday, it’s easy to miss the Europa League action. As always, we’re here to help, so we’ve rounded up the best stats and stories from the first legs of the 2023/24 Europa League quarter-finals.

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Mancini strikes again

Just six days after scoring the winner in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio, Gianluca Mancini once again rose highest from a Paulo Dybala corner to make it goals in back-to-back games for Roma and silence the San Siro. The 27-year-old now has two goals in the Europa League and six goals across all competitions in 2023/24, with no centre-back scoring more across Europe’s top five leagues and European competition this season.

Across all competitions, he has also scored more headed goals than any other defender in Europe’s top five leagues (5), moving one clear of both Gabriel Magalhães and Luca Ranieri (both four).

Gian Piero Gasperini shocks Klopp to become newest arch-nemesis 

Not many people gave Atalanta much chance in the tie, but they shocked the home faithful with three goals in an incredible Europa League tie at Anfield.

It was just the fifth time Jürgen Klopp had lost a home game in a major European competition for Liverpool in the 43 home games he has taken charge of, with this being the second victory by Atalanta after their 2-0 triumph in the Champions League back in November 2020. It was also the Reds’ first home defeat since they lost 5-2 to Real Madrid in February last year, ending a run of 33 games unbeaten at Anfield.

They join Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid (two wins each) as the only sides to win 2+ away matches against Liverpool in European competitions.

Estádio da Luz is a fortress

Benfica do not lose at home in the Europa League and Marseille learnt the hard away.

The Eagles have now played 29 matches on home soil since the UEFA Cup was re-branded into the Europa League in the 2009/10 season and not lost a single one, winning a staggering 76% of their home games in that time. Their 2-1 victory over the French side also means that they have now won the first leg of all six of their previous quarter-finals in the competition.

Scamacca makes history

It was fair to say that Gianluca Scamacca did not have the best of times during his spell in the Premier League with West Ham, but he showed what he is all about against Liverpool. The Italian opened the scoring after 38 minutes to give Atalanta the lead at the break before adding a second with a smart first time finish to double his side’s lead.

In doing so, he became the first ever Italian player to score a brace at Anfield against Liverpool in a major European competition and take his tally in the competition to five for the season. He has now scored more braces against English opposition for Atalanta than he did for West Ham. 

Auba scores again

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang just loves the Europa League.

The forward extended his lead as the all-time top goalscorer in the competition’s history in Marseille’s defeat to Benfica, becoming the first player to score 12+ goals in a season in major European competitions for a French club since Stéphane Guivarc’h in 1997/98 when he scored 17 times for Auxerre. 

Leverkusen always find a way

Bayer Leverkusen’s record-breaking campaign keeps rolling on thanks to another two late goals.

Domestically, they are in the DFB-Pokal final and one game away from winning their first ever Bundesliga title, ending Bayern’s run of 11 consecutive titles. In Europe, they are now one step closer to a possible treble and a place in the Europa League semi-finals after a hard fought 2-0 victory over West Ham.

They dominated the game having 33 shots and 76 touches inside the opposition box, which is the most recorded in a single Europa League game since the start of the 2016/17 season at least. Despite their dominance, it took them to the 83rd minute to finally break the deadlock against the Hammers through Jonas Hofmann with his side’s 31st shot of the game when it looked like the away side were going to hang on for a point. Victor Boniface then added a second in stoppage time as they scored in added on time for the third consecutive Europa League game (four goals in total).

That result also means they are now 42 games unbeaten across all competitions, with Juventus (43 games) the only side in Europe’s top five leagues to go on a longer unbeaten run this century.