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Arsenal, Chelsea march into Europa League last 16
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 22 - 02 - 2019

Arsenal and Chelsea put patchy domestic form behind them to reach the Europa League last 16 and they were joined by fellow big guns from Italy on a night of rip-roaring action in the continent's second-tier competition on Thursday.
Arsenal beat BATE Borisov 3-0 after a 1-0 first-leg defeat by the Belarus champions while Chelsea took some of the pressure off coach Maurizio Sarri with a 3-0 home defeat of Malmo which gave them a 5-1 aggregate win over the Swedish side.
Eintracht Frankfurt beat Shakhtar Donetsk 4-1 to earn a 6-3 overall victory and Napoli, winners of the UEFA Cup in 1989, had no problems beating FC Zurich 2-0 at home to advance 5-1 on aggregate.
Inter Milan, the winners of three European Cup and UEFA Cup titles apiece, also strolled through with a 4-0 home win over Rapid Vienna which completed a 5-0 dismissal.
Salzburg were the other big winners as their 4-0 home rout of Club Bruges gave the Austrian side a 5-2 aggregate win while two goals from Iran forward Sardar Azmoun handed Zenit St Petersburg a 3-2 overall success against Fenerbahce.
Rattled by embarrassing domestic defeats, Chelsea looked jittery before Olivier Giroud settled their nerves with a close range tap-in shortly after halftime at Stamford Bridge following good work by N'Golo Kante and Willian in the build-up.
Malmo had central defender Magnus Bengtsson sent off in the 73rd minute for a second bookable offence, moments before Ross Barkley curled in a delightful freekick from 20 meters.
Callum Hudson-Odoi put the icing on the cake in the closing stages with a fierce low shot from inside the penalty area, boosting Chelsea's confidence ahead of Sunday's clash with Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley.
An early Zakhar Volkov own goal put Arsenal on level terms at the Emirates stadium as the defender turned a low cross by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into his own net in a frantic opening.
Shkodran Mustafi made it 2-0 with a thumping header from a Granit Xhaka corner and the Switzerland midfielder delivered another impressive set-piece for Sokratis Papastathopoulos to head home on the hour.
Arsenal midfielder Alex Iwobi praised 'world class' teammate Mesut Ozil for his role in the win, although manager Unai Emery has not guaranteed the German midfielder a starting spot going forward.
Arsenal overcame a 1-0 deficit to move into the last-16 with a 3-1 aggregate win during which Ozil, who missed the first leg in Belarus, started only his second game in the club's last 11 fixtures in all competitions.
"He's world class, we scored three goals as a result of him playing. I know if I make a run he has the vision to find me," Iwobi told BT Sport. "Hopefully he can keep on playing. We know what Mesut's like because we see him in training every day."
Emery was satisfied with Ozil's 'positive' impact but said he would be rotated depending on the needs of the team and Arsenal's schedule in the coming weeks.
Goals by Simone Verdi and Adam Ounas sent Napoli on their way and Inter followed in their footsteps as Matias Vecino, Andrea Ranocchia, Ivan Perisic and Matteo Politano made light work of their return leg against Rapid.
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti ducked questions on whether his team was better off without sidelined forward Mauro Icardi following their Europa League win. Icardi has not played since being stripped of the captaincy last week amid uncertainty caused by protracted negotiations over a contract extension.
Inter have won all three games in the absence of the Argentine, who has complained of pains in his knee.
"We are improving and making fewer silly mistakes than before, but it is not fair to connect this to something else which has happened during his period," Spalletti told reporters after the 4-0 win.
"We should look at this from the correct angle which is that the team is working hard and making fewer mistakes."
Following a 2-2 draw in Ukraine, Eintracht thumped Shakhtar 4-1 in an action-packed encounter with Sebastian Haller and Luka Jovic putting the German side in the driving seat before Junior Moraes pulled one back for the visitors.
Marlos came close to an equalizer when he hit the woodwork before Haller netted his second and substitute Ante Rebic sealed the tie with a crisp low shot from 20 meters.
Salzburg wiped out a 2-1 first-leg deficit thanks to a clinical first-half brace by Zambian forward Patson Daka after Xaver Schlager opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Munas Dabbur made it 4-0 late on.
Goals from Magomed Odzoev and Azmoun gave Zenit a 2-0 lead against Fenerbahce to put them on course for a last-16 berth after a 1-0 first-leg defeat in Istanbul.
Their progress looked in peril after Mehmet Topal hauled the Turkish side back into the tie shortly before halftime but Azmoun sealed the win in the 76th minute.
Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb thrashed Viktora Plzen 3-0 for a 4-2 aggregate win over the Czechs while a Kevin Gameiro goal gave Valencia a 1-0 win over 10-man Celtic who had Jeremy Toljan sent off in the first half. The result completed Valencia's 3-0 overall defeat of the 1967 European Cup winners.
Celtic's quest to overhaul a 2-0 deficit at Valencia became mission impossible after Jeremy Toljan was sent off in the first half, manager Brendan Rodgers said.
The German full back's dismissal for a second booking in the 37th minute meant Celtic played with 10 men for nearly an hour. "I thought the referee took the game away from us," Rodgers told reporters.
"I spoke to the referee after the game. He said it was a definite sending-off. I thought it was really harsh."
Bayer Leverkusen were the surprise casualties after a 1-1 home draw with Krasnodar sent the Russian side through on away goals and Real Betis were beaten by Rennes 6-4 on aggregate following a 3-1 home defeat by the French side.
Slavia Prague stunned Belgians Genk 4-1 away after a goalless first leg and Dynamo Kiev edged Olympiacos 3-2 on aggregate thanks to a 1-0 home win in the return fixture.
A 0-0 home draw with Galatasaray was enough to see former European Cup winners Benfica through after their 2-1 away win a fortnight ago. — Reuters


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