DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 16, 2012
All Americans participating in the Europa League reached the quarterfinals, with Jermaine Jones' goal and assist helping Schalke to dominate Dutch team FC Twente.
FC Schalke 04 4 - 1 FC Twente Enschede (agg. 4-2)
Jermaine Jones had a goal and assist in Schalke's huge win at home over Twente, however teammate Klaas-Jan Huntelaar stole the show with a hat-trick that helped push the Königsblauen through to the quarterfinals.
Coming into the game with a 1-0 deficit from the first leg, Schalke looked to be in bad shape when Twente took the lead after just 14 minutes on a low strike from the top of the box by Willem Janssen.
Just before the half-hour mark, they started their come-back as Huntelaar scored his first with a header just inside the right post after Julian Draxler crossed from the left edge of the area.
Huntelaar netted his second from the spot three minutes before the hour mark after Janssen inadvertently stopped an attempted cross with his hand, however Schalke continued to push for more, with Twente still holding the edge on away goals.
They got their breakthrough with 19 minutes left in regulation, as Raul received the ball 12 yards out just to the left, and dropped a short backheel to Jones at the spot, who smacked it just inside the right upright with a shot on the turn to give Schalke the aggregate lead.
Twente were deflated by this point, and saw their exit from the competition confirmed ten minutes later, as Jones picked up a loose ball at the edge of his Schalke's penalty area and ran the length of the field before shifting the ball to Huntelaar on the right for a ten-yard blast to complete the 4-1 victory.
Along with the rest of the eight remaining teams, Schalke await the result of Friday's draw to find out their opponent for the upcoming quarterfinal round.
In the meantime, they will try to get the business done in league play when they visit last-place Kaiserslautern on Sunday.
Hannover 96 4 - 0 Standard Liege (agg. 6-2)
Steve Cherundolo and Hannover continued their strong run through the Europa League, finally managing to beat Belgian team Standard Liege in a complete blowout.
Already holding somewhat of an advantage by way of their two away goals in last week's first leg, Hannover wasted no time to clearly make their intentions clear in jumping ahead by two goals in just over 20 minutes.
Mohammed Abdellaoue gave them the lead after four minutes as he poked away a Jan Schlaudraff's deflected cross from inside the six-yard box, then Sergio Pinto forced their second in the 21st minute as his sharply hit cross from the right side was deflected by Kanu into his team's own net.
Needing two goals to even force overtime, Standard saw their chances take a further nosedive two minutes before the hour when Serge Gakpe was given his marching orders for a second yellow, then a pair of late goals within the final 20 minutes made everything certain.
First, Kanu continued his horrible day with a second own-goal as Didier Ya Konan's blast from the right in the 73rd minute took an unlucky deflection off of a teammate straight into the Brazilian's head, then bounced straight into the goal.
Then in added time, Ya Konan sent Pinto through on the right with a quick through-ball, which the Portuguese winger put away with a fantastic acutely-angled shot for the 4-0.
Hannover will have the first leg of their quarterfinal matchup in two weeks, with the team to be determined on Friday afternoon, but must rescue their faltering league campaign with a win over Cologne on Sunday.
Udinese 2 - 1 AZ Alkmaar (agg. 2-3)
Jozy Altidore played the full game on Thursday, as AZ Alkmaaar survived an early sending off to secure their aggregate win over Italian team Udinese.
With Alkmaar holding a 2-0 lead from the first home leg, they saw their chance of passing through to the next round teetering on the edge of a knife after just 15 minutes
Two minutes after the opening whistle, defender Nick Viergever was judged by referee Milorad Mazic to have toppled streaking attacker Antonio Floro Flores in the penalty area, leading to a red card to the AZ player and a successful penalty conversion by Udinese star Antonio di Natale.
Then in the 15th minute, the Italians pulled even on aggregate as di Natale was on the receiving end of a lob by Giovanni Pasquale at the right post for an easy two-yard volley into goal.
Facing the predicament of trying to keep the game even for a further 75 minutes of regulation and possible 30 minutes of overtime with one fewer player on the field, AZ caught a huge break just past the half-hour.
In the 31st minute, Erik Falkenburg picked up the ball in the middle of the penalty area, and took several steps to gain space before firing it past keeper Samir Handanovic to restore the aggregate lead to AZ.
Sensing a huge opportunity slipping from their fingers and now needing two goals to secure their passage, the Italians pushed hard, but were wasteful with their final opportunities.
Alkmaar could have removed all doubt in the 64th when they were awarded a penalty for a foul by Maurizio Domizzi on Brett Holman in the area, but Rasmus Elm's spot kick was over the net.
They nevertheless had few problems to shut Udinese down completely for the remainder, and celebrated their place in the quarterfinal round at the final whistle.
AZ will find out their next European opponents on Friday afternoon, and will momentarily return their main focus to league play, where they are currently in first place and host NAC Breda on Sunday.
Sporting CP lost by a 3-2 score in Manchester on Thursday, however thanks to their 1-0 win in Lisbon, they eased by English giants Manchester City on away goals on Thursday.