While the Europa League doesn’t normally catch the public’s eye until much later in the tournament, Thursday’s Round of 16 fixture list had a couple blockbuster matchup. For the early kickoffs, Tottenham travelled to take on Borussia Dortmund. The second batch of games featured the first ever Manchester United-Liverpool derby match to be played in European competition. Which clubs would be able to shine on a famous European night?

Dortmund 3-0 Tottenham

Dortmund in Europa League

When Mauricio Pochettino released his starting 11 before kickoff, it was clear that the Europa League was not his main objective. Spurs’ lineup featured a couple reserve players with the likes of Harry Kane, Erik Lamela and Kyle Walker all watching from the bench. Dortmund, on the other hand, fielded a nearly full strength squad and had to be considered the favorites for the first leg.

The first big chance of the match fell to the hosts in the seventh minute. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang slid a pass through to Erik Durm, but the German’s sliding shot flew just wide. BvB continued to push for the opener and nearly found it just minutes later only for Aubameyang’s close-range volley to fly over the bar. The Gabonese international thought he had scored in the 14th minute, but his tap-in was adjudged offsides.

Aubameyang would finally put his side ahead on the half hour mark heading home a Marcel Schmelzer cross. The German club were by far the better team throughout the opening 45 minutes, as Tottenham failed to register a single meaningful chance. Could they turn it around in the second half?

To answer that question: No, they couldn’t. Just like in the opening 45 minutes, Dortmund continued to be the aggressors. On the hour mark, Marco Reus doubled his side’s lead with a powerful volley from less than a yard from the net. The German winger delivered a third goal for Dortmund just ten minutes later. This time, a Gonzalo Castro through ball put Reus one-on-one with Lloris and he promptly slotted the ball into the back of the net.

The three-goal victory all but ensures Dortmund’s survival in the tournament. Tottenham, who are more focused on their title push at the moment, will likely field another young team next week in the second leg. Can they at least salvage some pride and score a single goal at White Hart Lane?

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

For how historic Man U and Liverpool’s rivalry is, it’s shocking to think that they had never met in European competition before Thursday’s match. Both clubs have claimed Champions League glory, but now find themselves playing in its less glamorous counterpart. One thing that Louis Van Gaal has done while in charge of United that has earned him some praise from fans is his undefeated record against Liverpool. Through four matches, the Dutchman has led his club to four victories (some more deserved than others). It was finally time for Jürgen Klopp to put a stop to this losing streak.

The biggest talking point of the match came in the 19th minute. As Nathaniel Clyne attempted to break into United’s penalty area, it looked like there was a slight tangle of legs between him and Memphis Depay. The collision resulted in a penalty kick, and Daniel Sturridge slotted it home to give the hosts an early one-goal lead. It should have been 2-0 just seconds later, but David De Gea pulled off an absolute miracle save to deny Philippe Coutinho’s point blank effort on the line.

The Spanish keeper would prove to be United’s best player on the day and almost single-handedly kept the Red Devils relevant in the match. On the half-hour mark, he was forced into a sprawling save by Sturridge’s close-range drive. Ten minutes later, De Gea produced an excellent reaction save to deny Adam Lallana that sent United into the second half down just a goal.

To put all of Liverpool’s chances into perspective, United didn’t even get their first shot on target until the 50th minute. Minutes later, De Gea had to tip over a long-range drive from Coutinho. Liverpool got their deserved second goal in the 73rd minute. A touch that somewhat resembled a terrible clearance from Michael Carrick gifted the ball back to Liverpool in the penalty area and Roberto Firmino easily fired his shot home from inside the six-yard-box.

Sturridge and Firmino’s goals sealed a 2-0 victory for the Reds and put them in prime position to knock out United next week at Old Trafford. If it wasn’t for De Gea’s heroics throughout the match, United could have easily found themselves going into the second leg down by four or even five goals. Van Gaal will need to work some managerial magic if he wants to keep United’s European dreams alive.


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