Europa titleholder Sevilla wins at Villarreal; Roma held 1-1
PARIS (AP) — Defending champion Sevilla took a big step toward the Europa League quarterfinals after winning 3-1 at fellow Spanish club Villarreal in the first leg of last-16 matches on Thursday.
Villarreal was unbeaten at home in the Europa League before the match, and coach Marcelino Garcia’s team scored 20 goals in eight games. One minute into the game, midfielder Victor Machin Perez put the visitors in front, and midfielder Stephane M’Bia added another midway through the first half.
Luciano Vietto’s sixth goal of the competition got Villarreal back into it, but striker Kevin Gameiro made it 3-1 moments later.
Elsewhere, Roma drew 1-1 at Fiorentina in an all-Italian match, and there were wins for Napoli, Everton and Wolfsburg.
Slovenia midfielder Josip Ilicic gave Fiorentina an early lead but veteran midfielder Seydou Keita’s late header earned a draw for Roma.
The returns matches are next Thursday.
Eleswhere, striker Gonzalo Higuain continued his good form with a hat trick as Napoli beat Dynamo Moscow 3-1, after the visitors took a second-minute lead through veteran striker Kevin Kuranyi.
Zenit St. Petersburg take a 2-0 lead back to Russia for the second leg, after midfielder Axel Witsel scored in a 2-0 win against Italian side Torino, soon after central midfielder Marco Benassi was sent off midway through the first half.
Left back Domenico Criscito added the second goal early in the second half after striker Hulk’s shot came back off the post and fell kindly to him.
“We started really strongly and did not concede, which was the most important thing,” Witsel said. “In the second half, we were too relaxed up front, that’s true. We should have maintained the same level as in the first half.”
Wolfsburg rallied from an early setback to beat Inter Milan 3-1, due in large part to midfielder Kevin de Bruyne
Rodrigo Palacio struck in the sixth minute for Inter after being set up by strike partner Mauro Icardi, but center half Naldo headed in De Bruyne’s corner midway through the half for the German side, and De Bruyne added two goals of his own in the second half.
“It wasn’t easy when Inter took that early lead, but in the second half we took control and perhaps could have added a fourth,” De Bruyne said. “The result is dangerous, but I’d rather be 3-1 up than 3-1 behind. We need to finish this next week.”
Meanwhile, Everton striker Romelu Lukaku’s sixth goal in three games in the Europa League — his latest was a late penalty — helped Everton beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1, while Roman Zozulya gave another Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk a 1-0 win against four-time European Cup champion Ajax.
Also, Belgian side Bruges beat Turkish side Besiktas 2-1.