Arsenal, Chelsea in strong positions for Europa League finals

Alexandre Lacazette scored twice as Arsenal came from behind to beat Valencia 3-1 at home in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final.

Mouctar Diakhaby headed Valencia into an early lead at Emirates Stadium on Thursday but within 14 minutes the Gunners had turned the tie around.

Lacazette first finished off a swift counter-attack involving Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before heading home Granit Xhaka’s cross to put Unai Emery’s men in front.

And the Spaniard, a three-time winner of the competition with Sevilla, will take a two-goal lead back to former club Valencia for next week’s second leg after Aubameyang struck late on.

Arsenal trailed in the 11th minute, having already failed to heed a warning from a Dani Parejo set piece that was eventually turned over the crossbar by Ezequiel Garay.

His defensive colleague Diakhaby would not make the same mistake, nodding in at the back post when Rodrigo Moreno headed Parejo’s corner back across goal, but Valencia’s advantage did not last long.

Ozil and Lacazette combined well to send Aubameyang through with the Gabon international superbly teeing up his strike partner to tuck home.

And Arsenal took the lead in the 25th minute, with Lacazette’s downward header from a fine left-wing Xhaka cross parried into his own goal by Neto, via the post.

Parejo’s free-kick flew over the crossbar while Lacazette somehow missed a golden chance to seal his hat-trick by failing to connect with Aubameyang’s centre.

Lacazette wasted an even clearer opportunity in the 68th minute, firing straight at Neto from close-range and again failing to beat the goalkeeper on the rebound.

Petr Cech denied Kevin Gameiro and the striker volleyed over as Valencia launched a late rally.

It was Arsenal who struck a potentially decisive blow, though. Neto kept out Lacazette brilliantly but was unable to stop Aubameyang from turning home Sead Kolasinac’s deep cross.

Pedro netted a potentially crucial away goal as Chelsea quelled Eintracht Frankfurt in a 1-1 Europa League semi-final draw at Commerzbank-Arena.

Luka Jovic enhanced his growing reputation by scoring his 26th goal of the season, a fabulous header that put Eintracht ahead after 23 minutes of the first leg.

But Maurizio Sarri’s men turned the tide and Pedro struck amid a flurry of late first-half pressure.

David Luiz hit the crossbar with a free-kick and the rested Eden Hazard was sent on after the hour mark to try to force an elusive winner, although the Premier League side remain well positioned to seal their place in the final in Baku. – BeIN Sports.

 

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