Champions League: RB Leipzig knock Tottenham Hotspur out of tournament; Josip Ilicic nets four to send Atalanta into quarter-finals

Playing in the Champions League for the first time this season, Atalanta’s European adventure continued in emphatic fashion as Slovenian Ilicic netted twice in each half to guide his side comfortably into the quarter-finals.

Reuters March 11, 2020 08:14:16 IST
Champions League: RB Leipzig knock Tottenham Hotspur out of tournament; Josip Ilicic nets four to send Atalanta into quarter-finals
  • RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer scored two early goals as they eased past last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in their last 16 second leg tie to reach their first quarter-finals by 4-0 on aggregate.

  • Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic scored four goals in a stunning individual display to lead them to a 4-3 Champions League last 16, second-leg win over Valencia, that completed an 8-4 aggregate victory, at an empty Mestalla

  • Without a win in any competition since their 1-0 first-leg defeat by Leipzig in London last month, Tottenham must try to turn their Premier League season around if they are to have any chance of being back in the Champions League next term.

Leipzig: RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer scored two early goals as they eased past last year’s Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 in their last 16 second leg tie on Tuesday to reach their first quarter-finals by 4-0 on aggregate.

Sabitzer fired the lively German side in front with a low shot from about 20 metres after 10 minutes and they never looked back, pinning the visitors, who were without injured strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, in their own half.

Champions League RB Leipzig knock Tottenham Hotspur out of tournament Josip Ilicic nets four to send Atalanta into quarterfinals

Leipzig brush aside last year's Champions League finalists Tottenham in round of 16-leg of the tournament. AP

Leipzig’s captain was then given far too much space in the 21st to head home Angelino’s cross at the near post after Serge Aurier’s poor clearance as the Spurs’ players heads started to drop.

Emil Forsberg completed the victory with a third goal from inside the box in the 87th as Leipzig, who only got promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016, reached their first quarter-final in Europe’s premier club competition.

“We did it better than in our recent Bundesliga matches,” Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann told reporters. Leipzig had drawn their last domestic league two matches.

“The fans are moved. This is a very big deal for the club. We are now looking forward to the draw. A special moment.”

Leipzig were founded by Red Bull in 2009 by acquiring a fifth division licence and started in the amateur divisions.

Struggling Spurs

Injury-ravaged Tottenham, who were also missing winger Steven Bergwijn and full back Ben Davies, struggled to keep up with Leipzig’s pace and were constantly exposed at the back while posing no threat up front.

Leipzig pounced on almost every sloppy pass and inaccurate clearance and could have added several more goals in a dominant first half with Timo Werner and Patrik Schick coming close.

Spurs coach Jose Mourinho had warned the absence of “box sharks” Kane and Son would make it more difficult for his side to score and the Portuguese’s prediction proved accurate.

His team had to wait until the 43rd minute for their first corner and managed to carve out only half a chance in the second period with a Dele Alli effort in the 75th.

“It’s hard for us to score at the moment,” Mourinho said.

“Our first couple of mistakes they score and then it’s very difficult. Their physicality is incredible, their defenders win the duels, they stop the game. They are very fast in attack. They can hurt us all of the time. They deserve to go through.”

Without a win in any competition since their 1-0 first-leg defeat by Leipzig in London last month, Tottenham must try to turn their Premier League season around if they are to have any chance of being back in the Champions League next term.

“People can say it is excuses but it (injuries) is pretty bad for anyone,” Mourinho added. “We have matches to play and we go to our limits. Let’s see how we end the season.”

Ilicic masterclass guides Atalanta past Valencia

Valencia: Atalanta’s Josip Ilicic scored four goals in a stunning individual display to lead them to a 4-3 Champions League last 16, second-leg win over Valencia, that completed an 8-4 aggregate victory, at an empty Mestalla on Tuesday.

Playing in the Champions League for the first time this season, Atalanta’s European adventure continued in emphatic fashion as Slovenian Ilicic netted twice in each half to guide his side comfortably into the quarter-finals.

Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby conceded two penalties in the first half, both converted by Ilicic, either side of Kevin Gameiro’s equaliser.

Gameiro headed home a second and Ferran Torres put Valencia ahead on the night but Slovenian playmaker Ilicic completed his hat-trick and then curled in a sumptuous fourth as his team reached the quarter-finals.

The Spanish side’s stadium was shut to supporters as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus , with the visitors coming from a high-risk zone in the north of Italy.

Yet despite fears surrounding the virus, thousands of Valencia fans gathered outside the stadium to welcome their team bus as they attempted to overturn a 4-1 first-leg defeat.

“Our hearts and souls are always in Mestalla,” read a banner draped over empty seats inside.

Valencia started badly, with the hapless Diakhaby bringing down Ilicic inside the second minute and the Slovenian converted from the penalty spot to give the visitors a dream start.

Gameiro pounced on a loose ball and slotted home to level but Gian Piero Gasperini’s Serie A side could not be repressed.

The Italians went back ahead two minutes before the break after Diakhaby handled in the area to concede another penalty, dispatched by Ilicic.

Remo Freuler crashed an effort against the crossbar for Atalanta but Gameiro headed home Torres’s cross to level on the night after 51 minutes.

Electric winger Torres, recently linked with Barcelona by Spanish media, lobbed home to give the hosts some hope, but the sublime Ilicic wrapped up the tie with two classy finishes.

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