The first leg matches for the Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League were played last Thursday March 7, 2019 with mixed fortunes for Africa’s ambassadors.
Dinamo Zagreb 1- Benfica 0
At the Stadion Maksimir in Zagreb, coach Rene Poms’ side did just the essential. They did not concede an away goal and scored a goal to give them a slight advantage. Neither Rene Poms for Dinamo nor Bruna Lage for Benfica needed the services of the Nigerians in their teams. 23 years old Nigerian midfielder Iyayi Believe Atiemwen did not make the match sheet for Dinamo just as his compatriot Tyronne Ebuehi for Benfica.
Eintracht Frankfurt 0- Internazionale Milan 0
Eintracht Frankfurt and Inter Milan cancelled out each other to a virgin draw. This was made possible by the solid defensive display of Cameroon’s 19 years old defender Evans Ndicka who joined Makoto Hasebe and Martin Hinteregger in a solid back three for Frankfurt. Ghanaian defender Kwadwo Asamoah showed all his experience for Inter, though the left back was booked as early as the 24th minute of the game. Cameroon’s Nelson Mandela Mbouhoum did not make the bench for Frankfurt just like Senegalese forward Keita Balde Diao for Inter.
Rennes 3- Arsenal FC 1
It was an exceptional night at Rennes’ Roazhon Park as they became the first French club to beat Arsenal in France in a European club competition. Three Africans were in the starting 11 for Rennes while 2 others began the game for Arsenal. Algeria’s Mehdi Zeffane and Ramy Bensebaini completed the back four for Rennes while Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr as usual was among their front three. They gave a good account of themselves. Zeffane was booked at the 87th minute, just a minute before Ismaila Sarr made it 3-1 for Rennes from an assist from Cameroon’s James Edward Lea Siliki who was brought in to replace Rennes’ first goal scorer Benjamin Bourigeaud at the 73rd minute. Côte D’Ivoire’s Souleyman Doumbia watched the exploits of his teammates from the bench. For Arsenal, Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a game to forget. Nigeria’s Alex Iwobi opened the scoring for Arsenal, but his goal turned out to be what brought the Rennes players to life.
Sevilla 2- Slavia Prague 2
Slavia Prague began the game with two Africans. Ivorian defender Simon Deli and his compatriot Ibrahim Benjamin Traore. Both had decisive roles in Slavia’s precious away draw. Midfielder Ibrahim Traore provided an assist to Miroslav Stoch for Slavia’s first equalizer at the 25th minute and Simon Deli did not limit himself to his defensive duties as he provided an assist too for for Alex Kral’s 39th minute equalizer. Cameroon’s versatile defender Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui replaced Kral at the 79th minute to secure the draw. Earlier on coach Jindrich Trpisovsky had turned to Nigerian striker Peter Oladeji Olayinka at the 60th minute to replace Lukas Masopust. The 23 years old Nigerian did not score but he had a good game. For Sevilla, Pablo Machin preferred to leave Cameroon midfielder Ibrahim Amadou on the bench.
Zenit St Petersburg 1- Villarreal 3
Precious and emphatic away win for Javi Calleja’s Villarreal at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. The only African on the pitch at the start of this game was Nigeria’s Samuel Chukweze and he played the entire game. Cameroon forward Karl Toko Ekambi was an unused substitute for the Yello Submarines.
Napoli 3- Salzburg 0
Salzburg have a mountain to climb to stay in the competition. Marco Rose’ team were comfortably beaten in Naples by Carlo Ancelotti’s men. Senegalese defender Kalilou Koulibaly showed his class again though he saw yellow at the 26th minute. Two other Africans were given a run in the game by Ancelotti. He brought in 21 years old Guinea Conakry midfielder Amadou Diawara for Poland’s Piotr Zielinski and Algeria’s Adam Ounas for Arkadiusz Milik. Ounas was booked just six minutes after coming on. Experienced Algerian defender Faouzi Ghoulam had to settle for a place on the bench all night. For Salzburg Cameroon’s reliable defender Jérôme Onguéné got an unfortunate own goal at the 58th minute for Napoli’s third of the night. Malian midfielder Diadie Samasekou was good in the entire game as usual but it was not enough as Zambia’s Patson Daka did not come to life and inspire his team like he did in the previous round. He was taken off at the 61st minute, a minute before his compatriot Enock Mwepu was introduced to no effect.
Valencia 2- FC Krasnodar 1
Murad Masayev has always depended on the experience and passing ability of Burkina Faso’s Charles Kabore in midfield for FC Krasnodar. The experienced Burkinabe did not disappoint against Valencia and was on the referee’s book as early as the 20th minute. His performance was not enough to prevent defeat as Valencia managed to get a goal more. Marcelino Garcia Torral did not even have Central African Republic midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia on the bench. There is a fair chance of qualifying for the Russians especially as they succeeded to get what could turnout to be a priceless away goal.
The return leg matches will be played on Thursday March 14, 2019, as usual www.kick442.com will be there with all the updates.