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Europa League roundup: Roma seal fightback at Ajax, Villarreal beat Zagreb

Ibañez crashed home a spectacular volley two minutes from time to give Roma a 2-1 away win over Ajax in their Europa League quarter-final first leg.

A missed penalty and a horror goalkeeping slip cost Ajax dearly as they lost a half-time lead and left them facing a tough task in next week’s return leg in Rome.

Ajax went ahead through Davy Klaassen’s goal six minutes before the break and should have doubled the lead early in the second half, but Dusan Tadic’s penalty was saved.

Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised with a 57th-minute free-kick which slipped through the hands of Ajax’s 21-year-old backup goalkeeper, Kjell Scherpen, and Ibañez secured the last-gasp win when he chested down a poorly cleared corner and slammed the ball home from close range.

Roma showed more early intent as Bryan Cristante’s long-range effort swerved dangerously and produced a full stretch save from Scherpen, deputising for veteran Maarten Stekelenburg, who missed out against his former club because of injury.

Cristante shot over crossbar from much closer at the end of an elaborate free-kick routine but it was Ajax who broke the deadlock in the 39th minute, from a move that began in their own half. A series of swift passes put them quickly on the edge of the Roma penalty box and when defender Gianluca Mancini backed off, it allowed Klaassen time to play a one-two with Tadic before sweeping home from close range.

Antony miscued from a similar distance when another Tadic pass presented him with an ideal opportunity to double the home team’s lead. Tadic was then bundled over by Ibañez but hit his penalty at comfortable height for the Roma goalkeeper, Pau López, to parry away.

Roma took full advantage of the let-off to equalise five minutes later as Pellegrini’s free-kick squirmed out of Scherpen’s grasp for a soft goal, before Ibañez’s late heroics put Roma side in control of the tie.

Villarreal also celebrated a first-leg advantage from their away trip after beating Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 thanks to Gerard Moreno’s penalty on the stroke of half-time.

The Spanish side will head into the return leg as favourites and their coach, Unai Emery, who won three successive Europa League titles with Sevilla, praised their clinical performance.

“It was a tough game against a side full of talent who just knocked Spurs out,” he said. “We played a good game, adjusting ourselves up top and not allowing ourselves to be exposed on the counter, either. We need to be prudent – it’s just 90 minutes that we have won, there’s still the second leg to come.”

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Dinamo staged a major upset to reach the last eight with a 3-2 aggregate win over Tottenham Hotspur but never looked like repeating their stunning 3-0 second-leg victory over the Premier League side due to a lack of cutting edge.

Mislav Orsic, who bagged a hat-trick against Spurs, had the ball in the back of Villarreal’s net in the 26th minute but his effort was disallowed for offside and that was the closest Dinamo came to scoring.

The visitors always looked more likely to break the deadlock and Moreno sent goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic the wrong way with a coolly taken spot-kick after Kévin Théophile-Catherine handled his cross.

Gerard Moreno slots home a penalty for Villarreal.

Josko Gvardiol drew a good save from Gerónimo Rulli before substitute Paco Alcácer dragged a close-range effort wide.

A deflected shot by Manuel Trigueros drew a fingertip save from Livakovic, with the visitors finding gaps in Dinamo’s half as the home side threw men forward in the closing stages.

The Dinamo coach, Damir Krznar, conceded his side were fortunate to have only a one-goal deficit. “We were below par and we should consider ourselves lucky to be only 1-0 down in the tie,” he said.

“We’re still in with a chance. We dominated the first half but conceded shortly before the break while we faded away in the second. We were impatient and failed to contain Villarreal from keeping possession.”

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