With the second-leg of the Europa League’s Round of 32 fast approaching, many neutrals will be slavering at the bit to see a titan fall. Their club’s own shortcomings already well-acknowledged, Arsenal fans (in particular) will be keeping one eye on events at Wembley on Thursday.
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side fell to a 1-0 defeat at Gent in the first-leg of this round. The absence of an away goal is particularly alarming, but Tottenham should still overturn the deficit.
With Southampton already eliminated, the demise of Tottenham would be a real blow to English representation in the 2016/17 Europa League. It would also, surely, go down as one of the biggest Europa League shocks ever.
As for Manchester United, the Red Devils hold all the cards against St Etienne. They crushed the French side 3-0 at Old Trafford, and look certain to finish the job. However, as the first item of this gallery shows, even the mighty Manchester United have occasionally proven fallible on the European stage.
Man Utd 1992-93
United will always have the accolade of conceding the very first Premier League goal, in a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United. They lost again, 3-0 at home to Everton, but pressed on from there to become the inaugural Premier League champions. Image Source: Collect Soccer
Bayern Munich 1-2 Norwich (2-3 agg)
UEFA Cup R2 – 20 October 1993 No list of this ilk would be complete without a mention of the first team to fell Bayern Munich on Bavarian soil. The hosts were expected to crush the Canaries, but goals from Goss and Bowen inside the first half-hour proved sufficient. Nobody was going to stop them that night! Source: Eastern Daily Press
Liverpool 0-1 Brondby (0-1 agg)
UEFA Cup R2 – 31 October 1995 A true Halloween horror show. Liverpool hitmen Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore failed to breach the Danish minnows at Anfield, and a goal from Dan Eggen twelve minutes from time eliminated the (then) four-time European champions. They met again in 2014 (pictured). Source: Berlingske
Dinamo Bucharest 5-1 Everton (5-2 agg)
UEFA Cup Playoff Round – 15 September 2005 Ten years later, it was the turn of neighbours Everton to endure a night of shame. After containing their hosts well until half-time, Everton succumbed to a deluge that ended any interest in Europe just four months after qualifying for the Champions League. Source: Archivofutbol
AE Larissa 2-0 Blackburn (3-2 agg)
UEFA Cup Playoff Round – 20 September 2007 After slogging their way through the Intertoto Cup, Blackburn’s interest in Europe was ended by a Greek tragedy of Oedipal proportions. Two minutes of madness saw Blackburn concede a brace of quickfire goals in the first leg – which ultimately proved decisive. Larissa are pictured in group stage action against Everton. (Credit: Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Rapid Vienna 1-0 Aston Villa (2-2 agg)
Playoff Round – 20 August 2009 A first-minute goal from Nikica Jelavić stunned the Villans, who had no response. A 2-1 win for Villa in the second-leg saw Rapid Vienna progress on away goals. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Aston Villa 2-3 Rapid Vienna (3-4 agg)
Playoff Round – 26 August 2010 Remarkably, Rapid Vienna repeated the feat one year later. Leading 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, Villa capitulated in their last European appearance for the foreseeable future. Late goals from Sonnleitner and Gartler settled the tie. Source: Imágenes españoles
Fulham 4-1 Juventus (5-4 agg)
R/O 16 – 18 March 2010 Roy Hodgson enjoyed a rare moment in the sun, when he guided Fulham to the Europa League final seven years ago. On a famous night at Craven Cottage, two goals from club legend Zoltan Gera saw Fulham overturn a significant deficit. Source: Imágenes españoles
On Europa night, those who are partial to some schadenfreude against a favoured side may end up disappointed. The two biggest bookmakers’ favourites, Manchester United and Roma, remain in strong positions.
Opportunities for Europa League shocks are running thin. However, two seeded teams in particular look vulnerable ahead of Thursday.
Undoubtedly, the most resounding win of the first leg was Rostov’s 4-0 hammering of Group K winners Sparta Prague. The immovable heavyweights of Czech football were truly humbled by a club that has never before reached the knockout phase of Europe’s secondary club competition.
Without an away goal to worry Rostov, Sparta Prague’s days in this year’s competition are surely numbered. Meanwhile, it looks only minimally better for 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg.
Despite boasting some exceptional talents and resources, Zenit proved no match for Anderlecht in the first-leg. Frank Acheampong’s brace saw the Paars-wit emerge 2-0 victors. Home or away, his pace and trickery will prove difficult for Zenit to handle, but there is still a modicum of hope for the Russian giants.
After all, Roy Hodgson motivated his Fulham side to overturn a two-goal deficit to Juventus and ultimately reach the final.
Who else could you possibly need in your corner when the chips are down…