Swiss champions FC Basel have won 3-0 in their quarterfinal first leg against Valencia, even in an almost-empty stadium. All four games yielded a winner, but Basel's three-goal margin was the night's most comfortable.
Basel, Benfica, Juventus and Porto all put themselves in pole position to reach the Europa League semifinals on Thursday night, but none of them won by a large enough margin to confidently declare their two-legged ties "over" at the half-way stage.
FC Basel played at home on Thursday in front of a crowd of just 350 traveling Valencia fans. The Swiss side was playing behind otherwise closed doors - a punishment for fan misbehavior in the last round against Red Bull Salzburg, which had even prompted the referee to march both teams off the pitch for around 15 minutes.
Still, Basel romped to a 3-0 victory, courtesy of a first-half brace from Matias Delgado (pictured) and a last-minute cherry on the cake from home favorite Valentin Stocker. The Swiss therefore take a commanding lead back to Valencia in Spain next week.
Quaresma's cross unlocks Sevilla
In a tough night for Spanish sides, FC Porto managed a narrow home win against Sevilla. The highlight of the game was not the only goal of the game, but rather the technical showcase of a cross that created it.
Veteran Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma struck a picture-perfect cross from the left flank on the run with the outside of his right foot, curling the ball towards the back post and onto the head of Eliaquim Mangala. Something of an aerial danger man, as Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt twice discovered when eliminated by Porto in the round of 32, central defender Mangala has an impressive three Europa League goals this campaign.
Juventus leave it late
Serie A champions Juventus also relied on a lone goal from a center-back on their trip to Lyon. Leonardo Bonucci headed home the only goal of a game, latching onto a Paul Pogba delivery, with just five minutes left on the clock in France. Juventus therefore take their slim advantage home to Turin, making them at least marginal favorites to progress to the final four.
Last year's beaten finalists Benfica carried the "favorites" tag with them to the Netherlands for their encounter with AZ Alkmaar. The Dutch challengers put up a solid front against the Portuguese side, albeit without enjoying as much of the game as their guests. Benfica broke the Dutch dam just a few minutes after the half-time break, Oscar Cardozo set up midfielder Eduardo Salvio for the game's only goal.
All four return fixtures will be played next Thursday, deciding the semifinal lineup for this season's Europa League.