Europa Conference League Round of 16 first leg: Celtic stunned, Slavia joy, Leicester cruise | UEFA Europa Conference League
Norway’s Bodø/Glimt matched their stunning 6-1 loss to Roma in the group stage by beating Celtic 3-1 on the opening night of the UEFA knockout stage Europa Conference League.
Elsewhere, Leicester City and Marseille got off to a comfortable start at home and Slavia Praha triumphed at Fenerbahçe, while neighbors Sparta Praha were undone by a late Partizan goal. UEFA.com wraps up the action.
Leicester City 4-1 Randers
Leicester ended a five-game winless streak, with Wilfred Ndidi setting the tone with a finish after a clever brace with Ademola Lookman. Patrik Carlgren then made a string of saves to hold off Leicester, before Vito Hammershøj-Mistrati leveled again moments before half-time.
Harvey Barnes quickly dashed the visitors’ hopes after the break, and well-worked tap-ins from Patson Daka and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall sealed victory.
Key stat: Daka (six goals) added to his tally as Leicester’s all-time leading goalscorer in Europe, while Barnes (five) overtook Riyad Mahrez (four) for second place on this list.
Celtic 1-3 Bodø/Glimt
Bodø/Glimt’s remarkable rise continued with a fine victory in Glasgow. The visitors to the Arctic Circle took the lead with seven minutes spent by Runar Espejord and extended their lead shortly after the break when Amahl Pellegrino showed good composure from close range. Daizen Maeda’s header gave Celtic hope, but Hugo Vetlesen struck almost immediately to leave the Norwegian side in control.
Key stat: It was Celtic’s second home defeat against a team from Norway – and only Bodø/Glimt’s second away win in European football this century.
Fenerbahce 2-3 Slavia Prague
Ibrahim Traoré opened the scoring for Slavia just before the break after Srdjan Plavšić touched the post. Dimitris Pelkas coolly equalized just before the hour mark, but Oscar Dorley’s spectacular smoothing shot and substitute Ondřej Lingr’s low drive capped a devastating three-minute spell for Slavia. Ferdi Kadıoğlu’s late and deflected curler gave Fenerbahçe hope for the second leg.
Key stat: It was Slavia’s first victory in seven away matches in UEFA competition.
Marseille 3-1 Qarabag
The in-form Arkadiusz Milik struck twice in a row in the first half, putting one away after his header was cleared off the line and then finishing calmly after Qarabağ was caught trying to try to play from behind. The Azerbaijani side rallied in the second half as Filip Ozobić hit a post before Kady’s goal rewarded a neat move. Dimitri Payet’s stoppage-time strike from fellow substitute Bamba Dieng’s cross eased the tension.
Key stat: Milik has now scored 12 goals in his last 11 appearances in all competitions.
And then ?
The return matches take place a week after the first, on February 24. Winners of ties earn a spot in the Round of 16 draw on February 25, where they will not be seeded.
The top seeds are AZ Alkmaar, Basel, Copenhagen, Feyenoord, Ghent, LASK, Rennes and Roma.
PSV Eindhoven 1-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv
Cody Gakpo’s early arrival was enough to secure victory for PSV, but the Dutch side failed to convert their dominance into chances and deliver a more decisive blow ahead of next week’s second leg at Bloomfield Stadium. Dor Peretz brilliantly fended off Noni Madueke’s header and PSV’s Israeli striker Eran Zahavi sent a free-kick just a hair’s breadth away as the visitors maintained an equal score.
Key stat: Gakpo, 22, has appeared in each of PSV’s last three games: one in the Dutch Cup, one in the Eredivisie and now one in the UEFA Europa Conference League.
Sparta Prague 0-1 Partizan
The hosts paid the price after failing to convert ball possession into meaningful pressure, with Partizan breaking through in the 78th minute in Prague. Saša Zdjelar threw a long ball forward and Queensy Menig chased it between two retreating defenders before passing Dominik Holec for the first time. The goalkeeper saved Miloš Jojić late to keep Sparta in the draw, and they almost managed to equalize after a last-minute corner kick.
Key stat: No team has scored more than once in Partizan’s last five European matches: that 1-0 win, two 1-0 losses and two 1-1 draws.
Midtjylland 1-0 PAOK
Joel Andersson’s well conceded goal in the 20th minute gave the Danish side a slim advantage to take in the second leg, right-back played by Evander before firing low from Alexandros Paschalakis. Midtjylland robbed PAOK of chances in Herning and almost doubled their advantage, with Brazilian midfielder Charles hitting the post from long range.
Key stat: Midtjylland remain unbeaten at home in Europe since the start of this season’s UEFA Europa League group stage (W2 D2).
Rapid Vienna 2-1 Speed
An action-packed opening minute began with Vitesse forcing Paul Gartler into a save, before Robert Ljubičić slotted in Ferdy Druijf to head in the first UEFA Europa Conference League goal to date. Marco Grüll’s quick feet scored a superb solo goal 15 minutes later, but Vitesse recovered with Loïs Openda’s powerful strike after Filip Stojković was sent off for Rapid.
Key stat: Rapid were winless at home in four games in all competitions tonight; Vitesse have now lost five in a row, conceding 18 in the process.
What are knockout play-offs?
The UEFA Europa Conference League knockout stages were introduced for the first time this season. Sixteen teams are involved: the eight runners-up from the UEFA Europa Conference League group stage and the eight third-placed teams from the UEFA Europa League group stage.
Ties are played over two legs and will end on Thursday 24 February; the away goals rule was abolished. The eight winners will qualify for the Round of 16 draw on Friday 25 February (the eight group winners have already qualified for this); the eight losers from the play-offs will no longer take part in the 2021/22 European competition.