Snaps losing streak; Marseille, Salzburg, Leipzig secure wins in first-leg.
Milan : Arsenal snapped a four-match losing streak here with a solid 2-0 victory over AC Milan in the first leg of their Europa League round of 16 clash.
Eliminated weeks ago from the FA Cup – which they won last year – and losers to Manchester City in last week’s EFL Cup final, Arsenal are 13 points o ut of the top four places in the English Premier League, leaving beleaguered manager Arsene Wenger desperate for success in the Europa League.
The hosts, undefeated in their last three games, were outclassed by Arsenal on Thursday.
Led by the mercurial Mesut Ozil, who assisted on both goals, Arsenal do minated every aspect of the contest.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who arrived from Manchester United during the winter transfer window, put the visitors ahead in the 15th minute and Welsh international Aaron Ramsey made it 2-0 for Arsenal with a goal in the final minute of the first half.
Only the intervention of the cross-bar preventing Mkhitaryan from getting a second goal and practically guaranteeing Arsenal’s spot in the quarter-finals.
In Marseille, Olympique Marseille took a big step toward qualifying for quarter-finals with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of their round of 16 tie here.
Thursday’s match had barely begun when Athletic’s Susaeta gave away the ball in midfield, spurring a Marseille attack that resulted in a goal by Lucas Ocampos to make it 1-0 for the hosts just 44 seconds after the opening whistle.
Things got even worse for the visitors in the 14th minute, when a poor clearance by Etxeita set up an easy goal by Dimitri Payet to double Marseille’s advantage.
And over the next four minutes, only the heroics of Athletic keeper Iago Herrerin kept his side from falling behind 4-0, as he denied Germain on successive occasions.
Aritz Aduriz had a chance to claw back a goal, but put too much on the shot and the ball went well wide.
Just as it looked like half-time couldn’t come soon enough for Athletic, the referee awarded a penalty for a foul by Rami in first-half stoppage time and Aduriz – the leading scorer in the Europa League – stepped to the line and converted to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Bilbao did better at the start of the second period, yet it was Marseille who scored the decisive next goal, a rocket from Ocampos in the 57th minute to bring the score to 3-1.
Dortmund suffered a surprising first leg loss as the Austrian outfit secured a 2-1 away victory to increase their chances of booking a place in the quarter-finals.
In Leipzig, Germany, RB Leipzig defeated Zenit Saint Petersburg 2-1 after Bruma and Timo Werner provided the goals in the first leg.
Leipzig scored two second-half goals to seal the deal while the Russian outfit scored a crucial away goal through Domenico Criscito on Thursday evening, keeping the visitors’ hopes alive for the second leg.
Leipzig grabbed the reins from the start but remained wasteful in front of goal in the first half as Emil Forsberg rattled the woodwork following a free kick before Timo Werner pulled wide from promising range before the break.