Juventus, Basel, Porto and Benfica take first-leg advantages
Swiss side look set for semis, but not much between the rest in Europa League
Juventus left it late before putting a foot in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, edging a stubborn Olympique Lyon 1-0 with a goal from Leonardo Bonucci as Basel, Porto and Benfica also grabbed first-leg wins.
Swiss side Basel took a huge step towards a second successive last-four appearance as Matias Delgado scored twice and Valentin Stocker netted a third in injury time in a 3-0 win over Valencia played behind closed doors.
Porto and Benfica made it a good night for the Portuguese with 1-0 wins over Sevilla and AZ Alkmaar respectively ahead of next week’s return legs.
Eliaquim Mangala scored with a header in the 31st minute for Porto, who finished with 10 men, at home to Spanish side Sevilla while Eduardo Salvio volleyed home three minutes after half-time to give Benfica victory in the Netherlands.
Lyon coach Remi Garde said ahead of the quarter-final tie that his injury-hit side had a mountain to climb if they wanted to get past Serie A champions and triple winners Juventus.
For 85 minutes, however, the two teams went toe-to-toe in an edgy encounter where chances were at a premium and the fear of defeat seemed to trump any desire to cast off the shackles.
The best chance of a cagey first half fell to Serie A top scorer Carlos Tevez after six minutes but he headed wide to extend a European goal drought that stretches back to April 2009.
Juventus, eight points clear at the top of Serie A, showed their quality in restricting the hosts to minimal sights of goal and then snatching a late victory that puts them in the box seat ahead of the return leg in Turin.
The French side failed to clear a cross from the left and the ball landed at the feet of Bonucci who was left with a simple finish.
“In the first half we struggled to find enough spaces to play our football while after the break we didn’t risk anything other than on set pieces,” Bonucci said.
“Lyon ran very hard in the first half but in the second we were able to bring home a very important victory.”