Match report | 16 FEB 2017

Athletic the sole Spanish winners in Europa League last-32 first legs

The Basques take a slender 3-2 lead into their return match away to APOEL, while Celta and Villarreal were beaten at home by Shakhtar and Roma respectively.

It was a disappointing evening of Europa League round-of-32 first-leg action where LaLiga Santander is concerned. Athletic Club's 3-2 comeback win over APOEL FC was the lone bright spot on a night that saw RC Celta and Villarreal CF both succumb to defeats on home turf.

Celta, the first of the Spanish sides to enter the fray, fell to FC Shakhtar Donetsk at Balaidos, with Gustavo Blanco Leschuk getting the only goal of the game in the 27th minute. The Argentina-born forward pounced on a loose ball and fired into the empty net from a matter of yards out to finish off a lightning counter-attack led by Marlos. Although the Galicians gave it everything they had in the second half, they failed to find an equaliser and will have to triumph in Ukraine if they are to progress.

Villarreal, for their part, have it all to do and then some after being hammered 4-0 at the Estadio de la Ceramica by a rampant AS Roma, for whom Edin Dzeko bagged a hat-trick. Fran Escriba's men will need to pull something extraordinary out of the hat at the Olympic Stadium in Rome next week if they are to have any chance of turning the tie around.

Only Athletic prevented a Spanish washout, and even then they were made to work hard for their victory. After APOEL broke the deadlock through a Georgios Efrem stunner, the Basques regrouped, levelled almost immediately thanks to a Giorgos Merkis own goal and then opened up a 3-1 lead courtesy of efforts from Aritz Aduriz and Iñaki Williams. Though Giannis Gianniotas put a dampener on the celebrations at San Mames by pulling it back to 3-2 at the death, Ernesto Valverde's charges will still head to Cyprus in the driving seat.

© LaLiga - Year 2017

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