Aston Villa edge closer to rare European silverware

Aston Villa edge closer to rare European silverware

April 11, 2024 at 9:30 PM
Aston Villa's John McGinn celebrates  his team's second goal
Aston Villa's John McGinn celebrates his team's second goal. Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP
Source: AFP

Aston Villa inched closer to a first European trophy in more than four decades with a 2-1 Conference League win over Lille on Thursday.

Ollie Watkins and John McGinn scored either side of half-time to give the Premier League highflyers a serious option on the semi-finals ahead of next week's quarter-final return leg in France.

Villa, who crushed Ajax 4-0 on aggregate in the last 16, are aiming to claim their third continental title following their victory in the European Cup in 1982 and the UEFA Super Cup the following season.

The gloss was slightly taken off their night's work when Bafode Diakite scored for the visitors with six minutes left on the clock.

Villa manager Unai Emery has a remarkable European record, having won the Europa League as coach three times with Sevilla and once with Villarreal.

The winners of this tie will advance to face either Greek giants Olympiakos or Fenerbahce of Turkey.

This pair met earlier Thursday in Greece with Fenerbahce's tumultuous week continuing as they mounted a stirring second half fightback in a 3-2 loss.

The Turkish outfit appeared to be down and out after an hour's play, with their Greek hosts bossing the quarter-final first leg by three goals.

Kostas Fortounis and Stevan Jovetic put Olympiakos firmly in control by half-time, with Chiquinho consolidating their advantage on 57 minutes.

But a 68th minute penalty from Dusan Tadic followed by Irfan Can Kahveci's 74th minute contribution gave Fenerbahce a lifeline ahead of next week's return leg in Turkey.

"We started strongly, but Olympiakos are a very good side and they converted their opportunities. After falling 3-0 behind, we managed to regroup, play our game and increase our chances to qualify," commented Tadic.

Olympiakos captain and goalscorer Fortounis said: "Fenerbahce are a good side. We loosened up and conceded two goals. That's football. But we will go there with full concentration and will play to qualify."

Fiorentina goalless

Fenerbahce went into the fixture hours after copping a 115,000 euros ($123,175) fine over their Turkish Supercup protest at the weekend.

Fenerbahce walked off the field in the opening minutes of the fixture against Galatasaray on Sunday as a protest against alleged unfair treatment.

They fielded an Under-19 team for the game against their Istanbul rivals. Galatasaray went ahead after three minutes with Fenerbahce then walking off in a pre-planned protest.

The Turkish Football Federation awarded Galatasaray a 3-0 win and issued Fenerbahce with the six-figure fine.

"It's time for Turkish football to be reset," Fenerbahce president Ali Koc had told a press conference before the match.

Fenerbahce are chasing their first Turkish title since 2014 and are two points behind champions Galatasaray with seven rounds to go.

Fenerbahce claim they are being picked on. They had asked for the Supercup to be postponed ahead of their Conference League quarter-final.

With their tails up they will be desperate to finish off Olympiakos on home turf next week.

Fiorentina, last season's beaten finalists in Europe's third-tier continental competition, were held to a goalless draw at Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic.

The winners of this tie will go on to face the winners of the meeting between Club Brugge of Belgium or PAOK of Greece, with Brugge leading 1-0 ahead of next week's return leg.

This season's Conference League final will be played in Athens at the OPAP Arena on May 29.

Roma won the inaugural Conference League in 2022, with West Ham lifting the trophy last season.

AFP photo