Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Viktoria Plzen 2 Sporting CP 1 (aet, 2-3 agg): Battaglia header sends visitors into quarter-finals

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 15 Mar 2018

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Sporting CP have booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Europa League thanks to a 3-2 aggregate win over Viktoria Plzen, as Rodrigo Battaglia got the vital goal in extra-time in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat.

The Portuguese side’s luck appeared to have deserted them when Bas Dost saw a penalty saved in second-half stoppage time, sending the game to extra-time after Marek Bakos’ brace had wiped out Sporting’s 2-0 lead from the first leg.

But Jorge Jesus’ men stepped things up a notch in the first half of extra-time, making the most of their superiority with Battaglia’s header on the stroke of the interval, and Plzen – who needed another two goals in response – were left deflated.

It took the home side just six minutes to pull themselves back into the tie, as Bakos headed in at the far post following a fine Jan Kovarik cross from deep on the left flank.

However, Sporting did a good job of restricting their flow of further chances, and they should have drawn level just before the break – Bryan Ruiz slamming a left-footed volley wide from about eight yards out.

Sporting missed another glorious opportunity early in the second half.

Bruno Fernandes’ long-range strike was parried to Marcos Acuna, whose follow-up effort bounced back off the right-hand post before he then hit the rebound over.

And Plzen capitalised just after the hour mark – Bakos sweeping into the bottom-right corner from just out the six-yard box following Radim Reznik’s pinpoint cut-back.

Dost was presented with the perfect chance to get a vital away goal right at the end of normal time, but his tame penalty – which he had won – was easily saved by Plzen goalkeeper Ales Hruska, securing extra-time for the hosts.

Sporting’s progression, though, was ultimately sealed just before half-time in extra-time, as Battaglia headed in Fernandes’ cross, taking Sporting into the last eight.

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