Following their respective ‘Italian jobs‘ in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund have been handed first legs at home in the last-16.
Leipzig will face Roberto Mancini’s Zenit Saint Petersburg after just squeezing past Serie A leaders Napoli on away goals, following a 2-0 home defeat.
After Marcel Schmelzer’s late equaliser at Atalanta saw Dortmund through, they have been drawn against Red Bull Salzburg in the next stage of the competition.
Zenit for Leipzig after nervy night against Napoli
Leipzig had been defending a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Italy, however Napoli fielded a much stronger team for the return match, with Dries Mertens available again after suspension and Lorenzo Insigne also in from the start
Their hosts were playing their first-ever European knockout tie, and they had them on tenterhooks once Pitor Zileinkski struck first with just over half-an-hour gone. It wasn’t until the 86th that Lorenzo Insigne made it 3-3 on aggregate, but the late third goal from Timo Werner a week earlier proved vital in the end.
After navigating through the group stage with just two dropped points, Zenit made it into the last-16 with a 3-0 victory on Thursday night against Celtic, despite having lost the first leg 1-0. The Russians, who are currently second in the Premier Liga, previously won the UEFA Cup ten years ago.
Schmelzer sends Stöger’s side to Salzburg
A pulsating first leg for Dortmund against Atalanta saw them take a narrow 3-2 lead to Italy, and for a long time it looked as though the ‘hosts’, forced to play their home games in Europe in Reggio Emilia, would go through on away goals after Rafael Toloi’s early goal had brought the tie level.
As time was running out though, Schmelzer was the hero for Dortmund as he equalised on the night with just under ten minutes, capitalising after Etrit Berisha failed to hold his save, and they were able to see the rest of the match out to just about make it through.
Europa League regulars Salzburg, who had also made it through the Europa League group stages with relative ease, beat Real Sociedad in a tough tie, and will be a tough test for Peter Stöger’s side. After a slow start, they are on course for a fifth-consecutive Austrian Bundesliga title.