Caught your breath yet? Managed to somehow process exactly what went down between Barcelona and PSG. Maybe you’d like to be eased into tonight’s column. How about a nice meal and some good company in a cafe and you wanna talk about how you get through to the quarter finals of the Champions League?
Random Thursday nights mean one thing, the Europa League and if you were thinking that Spurs’ exit means that the sarcasm levels are going to drop then you’ll be gravely mistaken. We go immediately to the team that conquered Tottenham – Gent – who have all but already said goodbye to the competition in losing 5-2 at home to virtual namesakes Genk. Understimating an opponent in the latter stages of a European competition? It’s almost as if there were English teams left in after all.
As it is, the sole representative from home shores remains the side most determined to sack the whole thing off. That is not to say that the cricket pitch that Manchester United found themselves on against Rostov was befitting of the occasion, or even the correct sport, although at this point we’re pretty sure Henrikh Mkhitaryan could have taken five wickets such is his influence right now. Thanks to Aleksandr Bukharov the tie is very much still in the balance but we’d imagine United will come at them as hard as a Zlatan elbow in the second leg.
Of the ties that remained, there wasn’t that much to write home about. There were more draws than you’d expect to find in IKEA (that joke works much more not in written form). Olympiakos, Besiktas, Schalke and Gladbach all set up the most intruging of second legs, individually that is, not together like the worlds blandest Champions League group. Celta Vigo did manage to edge out Krasnodar 2-1 as is their way in Europe now as did F.C. Copenhagen, surprising everyone in a similar scoreline against Ajax. It may not have been the winner, but watch this goal from Rasmus Falk Jensen after just twenty five seconds.
Before a ball had been kicked, there was one tie that stood out above them all. The veritable “this could be the final but we’re gonna have to do it now” game, which pitted Roma against Lyon. It did not disappoint. Twists and turns, the kind of contest that made you wonder whether anyone had chosen to tell the players that this was over two legs as opposed to one. First Lyon then Roma took the lead, then with the crowd at the Stade des Lumieres behind them, the French side came back to reclaim the upper hand. A lot has been said about Alexandre Lacazette. He’s the new Zlatan/Cavani/the media sees some guy doing well in France but wants to undermine him. Which is to say he isn’t very new at all. That being said, everyone was waiting for a moment from him to savour, to announce himself on the European stage (announce himself in the same way that when you leave a child in the supermarket, they continue to ask. Both Lacazette and young Timmy are already well established entities). As the chance looked to have gone, as the game looked to have passed, Lyon’s number 10 not only struck but set out one of the coldest goal celebrations since Daniel Sturridge decided to tell the Everton fans what time it wasto tell the Everton fans what time it was.
It’s a goal that doesn’t necessarily put it beyond Roma (after Barca-PSG what is?) but it’s a moment to savour in what might not be the greatest league season for Lyon but might result in their first ever continental trophy. Until then, this will have to do.