The quarter-finals first leg of the 2011/12 Europa League were played tonight with all but one of the home sides recording victories.
In Holland, AZ Alkmaar produced a 2-1 home win over Valencia with Brett Holman opening the scoring on the stroke of half-time before Mehmet Topal answered for the Spaniards early in the second. With Valencia producing the better of the chances, AZ managed to go ahead with just over ten minutes left courtesy of Maarten Martens to produce a victory after Los Che who had eliminated Alkmaar's Eredivisie rivals PSV Eindhoven in the last stage.
In Germany, Raul scored twice for Schalke but could not deny a rampant Athletic Bilbao who came up with a 4-2 away win following on from their brilliant Round of 16 performances against Manchester United. Fernando Llorente netted first for Bilbao in the 19th minute before Spanish great Raul leveled three minutes later and then put his side ahead just prior to the hour-mark but Llorente chimed in with his second to make it 2-2 before Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain added late goals to give Bilbao a huge win.
Sporting Lisbon were on a high after knocking out Manchester City in the last stage and drew first blood over Ukrainian outfit Metalist Kharkiv through Marat Izmailov and Emiliano Insua before Cleiton Xavier pulled back a vital away goal when he converted from the penalty spot in injury time.
And in the final last eight match of the night, Atletico Madrid scored early and late to overcome Hannover thanks to goals from Radamel Falcao and Eduardo Salvio either side of Mame Biram Diouf’s 37th minute effort.
The return legs will all take place on Thursday April 5 with the winner of the Atletico/Hannover clash to meet whoever triumphs in the AZ/Valencia match whilst Sporting or Metalist will take on Schalke or Bilbao in the semi-finals.
UEFA Europa League quarter-finals – first leg
Sporting Lisbon (POR): 2 (Marat Izmailov 51’, Emiliano Insua 63’)
Metalist Kharkiv (UKR): 1 (Cleiton Xavier (p) 90+1’)
Esatdo Jose Alvalade, Lisbon