Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sparta Prague 2 Villarreal 4 (3-6 agg): Another Bakambu double helps visitors into the semis

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 14 Apr 2016

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Cedric Bakambu scored twice as Villarreal earned an exhilarating 4-2 win at Sparta Prague to reach the Europa League semi-finals for the third time in their history.

Bakambu followed up his brace in the first leg at El Madrigal with another double at Generali Arena on Thursday as Villarreal secured a 6-3 aggregate victory.

The forward’s fifth-minute opener set Villarreal on their way and, although a depleted Sparta responded brightly, two quick-fire goals before half-time essentially ended the hosts’ hopes.

After Samuel Castillejo struck home from the edge of the area, a deflected header from Bruno Soriano all but put the tie to bed with 45 minutes still to play.

Bakambu’s second of the night arrived in the 49th minute, a neat close-range finish taking the forward’s tally in this season’s competition to nine goals in 11 appearances.

The hosts restored some pride as Borek Dockal and Ladislav Krejci scored consolation goals, but the task proved too much and Zdenek Scasny’s men ended an impressive European campaign with a first home defeat in 18 matches across all competitions.

Villarreal made the early breakthrough when Bakambu finished clinically from Manu Trigueros’ wonderful defence-splitting throughball.

Sparta attempted to muster a quick response and Dockal tested Villarreal goalkeeper Alphonse Areola with a left-footed drive.

Dockal then opted to shoot from a tight angle on the right when caught between going for goal and finding a team-mate, succeeding only in firing his effort beyond the far post to let the visitors off the hook.

Krejci missed Sparta’s best first-half chance, though, the winger side-footing wide after his late run was picked out brilliantly from Kehinde Fatai’s right-wing cross.

Villarreal made Sparta pay for their profligacy as two goals in three minutes shortly before the break put Marcelino’s men in the driving seat.

First, Castillejo aimed a left-footed shot beyond David Bicik to double Villarreal’s lead, before turning provider with an in-swinging corner that Bruno converted via a heavy deflection.

Bakambu scored again four minutes into the second half, the forward holding off the challenge of Tiemoko Konate inside the area to convert a right-wing cross.

Dockal’s low drive from the edge of the area in the 65th minute reduced the arrears and gave the Sparta faithful something to shout about

And the home fans were on their feet again when Lukas Julis’ low cross from the right allowed Krejci to cut the deficit in half six minutes later.

Buoyed by the two goals, Sparta put up a spirited showing in the closing stages as they attempted to mount an unlikely comeback.

However, the damage had already been done and the Liga side held firm to book their entry in the last four.

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