The UEFA Europa League Round of 16 verdict was delivered on Thursday March 14, 2019 with two teams from England, two from Spain, one from Germany, one from the Czech Republic, one from Portugal and one from Italy progressing to the next round. As always the African players had their say.

Benfica 3- Dinamo Zagreb 0 AET Aggregate score (3-1)

1961 and 1962 European Champions Benfica of Lisbon lost the first leg game 0-1 against Dinamo Zagreb. Bruno Lage’s men only leveled the tie at the 71st minute, when Jonas gave them the advantage. They secured their qualification in extra time thanks to goals from Francisco Ferreira and Alex Grimaldo. The introduction of 23 years old Nigerian midfielder Iyayi Believe Atiemwen at the 97th minute by Nenad Bjelica could not help Dinamo Zagreb turn the tie to their favour. Benfica’s Nigerian left back Tyronne Ebuehi was completely absent from the team.

Internazionale Milan 0- Eintracht Frankfurt 1
(Aggregate score 0-1)

Inter of Milan were stunned at home by an entertaining and high spirited Eintracht Frankfurt. Christian Peintinger’s men had an early goal from Luko Jovic at the 6th minute. They did not seat back to defend that advantage but kept on attacking and created lots of guilt-edged opportunities which Inter’s last man standing Samir Handanovic miraculously kept out. 19 years old Cameroon defender Evan Ndicka Obitte and his partners in Frankfurt’s back three, Makoto Hassebe and Martin Hinterregger were solid for the German side. Ndicka’s compatriot Nelson Mandela Mbouhoum was out of the team.

Arsenal FC 3- Rennes 0
(Aggregate score 4-3)

For the first time in eight years there will be no French club in the quarterfinals of Europe’s top club competitions. Rennes looked to be in the driving seat after beating Arsenal 3-1 in France. Rennes 38 years old coach Julien Stephan is certainly learning in the hard way. Gabon’s Black Panther Pierre Emerick Aubameyang was at the heart of Arsenal’s fight back. Rennes began the game with Senegalese striker Mbaye Niang, winger Ismaila Sarr, Algerian defender Ramy Bensebaini and and 27years old Malian defender Hamari Traore. For Arsenal, Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi settled for a place on the bench while Aubameyang was giving the goal scoring responsibilities from the start. The Gabonese opened the scoring at the 5th minute, then provided an assist for Ainsley Maitland-Niles at the 15 minute to make Arsenal’s intentions clear. He got Arsenal’s third and final goal of the game at the 72nd with a unique celebration to remind everyone that he was a Gabonese Black Panther. His celebration cost him a booking. Alex Iwobi was brought in at the 70th minute by Unai Emery, while Egypt’s Mohamed Elneny and potential Ghanaian Black star Jordi Osei-Tutu were left out of the team. Rennes brought in Cameroon winger James Edward Lea Siliki at the 78th minute for Benjamin Andre but his presence did not get them the much needed goal to keep them in the contest. The nearest they came was through a low shot from Mbaye Niang that beat Petr Cech but not his goal post. Algeria’s Mehdi Zeffane and Côte D’Ivoire’s Souleyman Doumbia we’re unused subs for the eliminated French club.

Slavia Prague 4- Sevilla 3 AET
(Aggregate score 6-5)

In what turned out to be the highest scoring fixture in all the eight, Slavia Prague saw off Europa League experts Sevilla in a 4-3 home win after extra time. Giant Cameroon defender Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui drew first blood for the home side at the 15th minute. Ngadeu-Ngadjui was partnered in Slavia’s central defense by reliable Ivorian defender Simon Deli. Though a fringe player all season, Ivorian midfielder Ibrahim Traore got the crucial fourth goal for Slavia at the 119th minute. Nigerian striker Peter Oladeji Olayinka was brought in at the 77th minute by coach Jindrich Trpisovsky for Milan Skoda to throw his weight behind Slavia’s front line. For Sevilla, Pablo Machin overlooked Cameroon’s 25 years old midfielder Ibrahim Amadou who did not even make the subs bench.

Villareal 2- Zenit St Petersburg 1
(Aggregate score 5-2)
At the Estadio de la Ceramica, Javi Calleja’s Villareal outplayed Zenit to a 2-1 home win. The Yellow Submarine did not call on their African magicians, Cameroon’s Karl Toko Ekambi and Nigeria’s Samuel Chukweze. Both men were left on the bench all night especially as Villareal are involved in a a tricky relegation battle in the Spanish top flight. Gerrard Moreno and Carlos Bacca got Villarreal’s goal while the evergreen Branislav Ivanovic got the consolation goal for the Russians.

Salzburg 3- Napoli 1
(Aggregate score 3-4)

At the Red Bull Arena, Salzburg put up a good fight, but Arkaduisz Milik’s 14th minute opener proved to be their ondoing.
Marco Rose began the game with Cameroon’s Jérôme Onguéné in centre defense, Malian midfielder Diadie Sammassekou and Zambian winger Enock Mwepu. Samassekou and Onguéné did not hold back anything, and were even more committed than accepted as they got their names in the referees book. Mwepu was replaced at the 59th minute. His Zambian compatriot Patson Daka was an unused substitute. Napoli’s African contingent was only present in the game when Guinea Conakry midfielder Amadou Diawara came in at the 74th minute for Piotr Zeilinski. Senegal’s Kalilou Koulibaly and Algeria’s Adam Ounas were absent from the team sheet for different reasons while Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam ended on the bench all night. Ancelotti’s Napoli narrowly escaped embarrassment.

FC Krasnodar 1- Valencia 1
(Aggregate score 2-3)

Valencia made their 2-1 home win count with a 90th minute equalizer from Goncalo Guedes to qualify for the quarterfinals. Their Central African Republic midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia pulled the strings in midfield and even saw yellow at the 15th minute.
18 Africans from 7 countries survived the round of 16. The draws for the quarterfinals have been made this Friday March 15, 2019 with the following fixture: Arsenal FC – Napoli , Villarreal- Valencia CF, Benfica Lisbon – Eintracht Frankfurt and Slavia Prague- Chelsea FC. As always will be there to update you on the performances of our African flag bearers.
The quarterfinals games will be played on the nights of April 11th and April 18th, 2019.

Muambo Edward.