Juve grab Europa League advantage

LACK OF GOALS::Juventus labored to a 1-0 victory at Olympique Lyonnais, while Portuguese giants Porto and SL Benfica also came away with 1-0 first-leg wins


Sat, Apr 05, 2014 - Page 18

Serie A champions-elect Juventus remained on course for the UEFA Europa League title with a 1-0 win at Olympique Lyonnais in a forgettable quarter-final first leg on Thursday.

After losing their 14-match unbeaten run in a 2-0 loss at SSC Napoli at the weekend, Juve continued to labor in France.

They were heading for a scoreless stalemate until Leonardo Bonucci broke the deadlock five minutes from time.

Andrea Pirlo’s corner fell to Paul Pogba, whose powerful close-range drive was blocked, but Bonucci was on hand to blast the ball home past Anthony Lopes in the Lyon goal.

Moments earlier, an unmarked Mirko Vucinic had managed to fire over the crossbar from close range in a crude snapshot of the lack of quality involved.

Lyon struggled to carve out a meaningful chance, while Juventus’ Argentine star Carlos Tevez had headed wide in the first half.

Tevez, who has 18 Serie A goals this season, remains without a goal in continental competition since scoring for Manchester United against Porto in the 2008-2009 UEFA Champions League campaign.

“It was tough as Lyon were trying to stop us from playing with man-marking all over the field,” Juventus coach Antonio Conte said. “I think the victory is a deserved result, but we know that we have achieved nothing yet, there is a second leg to play and a semi-final to achieve.”

Also on Thursday, Portuguese giants SL Benfica and Porto both came out of their first legs with 1-0 wins.

Last season’s runners-up Benfica, who put out Tottenham Hotspur in the round-of-16, won at AZ in the Netherlands thanks to a 48th-minute goal from Eduardo Salvio.

He was first to a rebound after AZ’s Costa Rican goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado had saved from Oscar Cardozo.

Porto, the 2010-2011 champions, edged Sevilla 1-0 with stand-in captain Eliaquim Mangala scoring on the half-hour mark.

Steven Defour and Ricardo Quaresma both saw efforts come off the post for Porto and they ended the game with 10 men after Fernando was red-carded.

In the other quarter-final, Argentine playmaker Matias Delgado scored twice in the space of four first-half minutes to help Basel on the way to a 3-0 win over Valencia.

However, there were few on hand to witness the action after Basel, who were semi-finalists last season, were ordered to play behind closed doors following fan violence in the round-of-16 tie at Red Bull Salzburg.

The 31-year-old Delgado opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a calm finish into the corner after being afforded too much space on the edge of the penalty area.

He added a second in the 38th minute with Valentin Stocker creating the opportunity.

Stocker grabbed the third in stoppage-time at the end of the match when he cut across Juan Bernat and lifted the ball over Vicente Guaita in the Valencia goal.