Football Features

Eight things you might have missed as Europa League quarter-finals conclude

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:48, 18 April 2024

The Europa League quarter-finals came to a close on Thursday but not before another fantastic night of action.

As always, all four quarter-finals were played at the same time, meaning fans across the globe were multi-screening to catch all the meaningful events. There were two games in Italy with Liverpool traveling to Atalanta hoping to overcome a 3-0 deficit, while Roma hosted AC Milan in an all-Serie A battle.

Newly-crowned Bundesliga champions Bayer Leverkusen were in London looking to maintain their lead over West Ham, while Marseille hosted Benfica. So, what were the biggest stats and stories as the Europa League quarter-finals wrapped up?

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Bayer Leverkusen are inevitable

Once again, Bayer Leverkusen were on the brink. Not of exiting the Europa League, but finally losing a game. They’ve been here a few times in the Europa League, but we were silly to doubt them.

The newly-crowned Bundesliga champions trailed West Ham at the London Stadium until the 89th minute with Jeremie Frimpong equalised with a deflected effort. Leverkusen are now 44 games unbeaten across all competitions this season, with an incredible 38 wins. What’s even more remarkable is that Leverkusen have seen 10 of their 44 games turned in their favour (to win or draw) by goals scored in the 85th minute or later — seven wins and three draws.

West Ham strike early

West Ham were the underdogs going into their game against Bayer Leverkusen, and no one really gave them a chance of making it to the Europa League semi-finals. In the first leg, the damage was done by Leverkusen in the final 10 minutes, with Jonas Hofmann opening the scoring in the 83rd minute and Victor Boniface doubling the advantage in injury time.

But in the second leg, the reverse happened. West Ham opened the scoring, and opened it early, with Michail Antonio scoring in the 13th minute. Officially timed at 12 minutes and 47 seconds, it’s the first goal Bayer Leverkusen have conceded in the opening 15 minutes of a Europa League match this season.

It was the ninth goal Antonio has scored for West Ham in major European competitions, making him the Hammers’ joint-top scorer alongside Jarrod Bowen — who set him up.

Liverpool’s luck from the spot

Liverpool had a mountain to climb in order to reach the semi-finals, and it’s no surprise that they weren’t able to overcome the 3-0 first-leg deficit. But they did give themselves the best chance.

The Reds led in the seventh minute with Mohamed Salah opening the scoring from the penalty spot, following a handball from Matteo Ruggeri in the box. It was the seventh penalty Salah has scored for Liverpool across all competitions this season, his joint-most in a single campaign for the Reds having also netted seven in 2020/21.

Liverpool have also now received 13 penalties across all competitions this season, with only Chelsea (14) being awarded more among Premier League sides.

Europa League eludes Klopp again

Jurgen Klopp’s first season in charge of Liverpool saw them reach the Europa League final, as they were beaten 3-1 by Sevilla. This was the first time since the 2015/16 campaign that Liverpool were in the Europa League, so there would have been a full circle moment had the Reds gone on to win the competition as Klopp departs.

But Atalanta did the damage in the first leg of their quarter-final, ending those hopes of a dream send off. It leaves the Europa League as the only competition Klopp has taken charge of Liverpool in without winning it.

A long wait ended for Atalanta

But let’s not take anything away from Atalanta. It’s their night to party and fans will be dreaming of a Europa League final, facing Marseille/Benfica in the semi-finals.

Atalanta fans have had to wait a long time for a European semi-final, last reaching the final four of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987/88. Then, they were beaten by Belgian side Mechelen, losing both legs of the semi-final 2-1. Mechelen went on to beat Ajax in the final.

Dynamite Daniele de Rossi

What a turnaround Roma are experiencing under Daniele de Rossi. The former Roma midfielder has now taken charge of 17 games for the Giallorossi and he has led them to the Europa League semi-finals.

They’ve won 12 of those 17 games and only lost twice, with one of those defeats coming against Brighton in the second leg of their last-16 tie — with Roma already 4-0 up on aggregate.

It was a fiery affair at the Stadio Olimpico too, with Roma winning 2-1 despite playing the final 60 minutes with 10 men after Zeki Celik was sent off.

Another win for Roma

Roma may have won the tie, but they have also essentially given themselves an extra chance of qualifying for the Champions League.

Their win, alongside Fiorentina also winning in the Europa Conference League, means that Italy are guaranteed a fifth Champions League spot for next season based on coefficient points. And guess who are the fifth-placed team in Serie A right now? Yep, Roma.

Aubameyang on top

Marseille needed penalties to continue their run in the Europa League, with Angel Di Maria and Antonio Silva failing to score for Benfica in the shootout. Benfica had been advancing to the semi-finals for most of the second leg, leading 2-1 from the first fixture last week.

But their net was finally breached in the 79th minute as Faris Moumbagna put Marseille ahead on the night and level on aggregate. While that was his first Europa League, the man who set him up knows all about finding the net in the competition.

Aubameyang has now been directly involved in 13 goals in the Europa League this season, scoring 10 with three assists. He has been directly involved in more goals across UEFA’s club competitions this season than any other player this season.

And he’ll have a chance to add to that in the semi-finals…