Europa League: Arsenal, Leicester, Hoffenheim enter knockout phase

Finding the mark
Arsenal's Reiss Nelson scores their second goal against Molde. Photo: Reuters

London: Arsenal's academy products helped the team cruise into to the knockout stage of the Europa League while Leicester needed a late equaliser from Jamie Vardy to advance.

Arsenal's record signing Nicolas Pp showed his better side after he was sent off in a 0-0 draw at Leeds in the Premier League on Sunday, scoring the opening goal in a 3-0 away victory at Norway's Molde.

The homegrown talents did the rest as Reiss Nelson doubled the lead and Folarin Balogun less than a minute after coming on as a substitute netted the third with his first goal for the club.

Hoffenheim and Leicester also progressed into the round of 32 with two matches to spare. The Premier League club equalised three times in a 3-3 draw at Braga, with Vardy grabbing the final goal in injury time.

Carlos Vincius scored his first two goals for Tottenham while Harry Winks netted a spectacular one from 56 yards as a dominant Spurs side beat Bulgarian team Ludogorets 4-0.

AC Milan failed to win for the second straight game as the Italian powerhouse was held to a 1-1 draw at Lille, while Rangers was held 2-2 by Benfica after giving up a two-goal lead against the Portuguese side for the second game in a row.

A minute of silence was observed before all the matches to honour Diego Maradona, who died on Wednesday at the age of 60.

Maradona's former club Napoli paid special tribute to the Argentine before a 2-0 win over Rijeka.

Arsenal used a second-half scoring burst to maintain a perfect record with four wins from four.

Just a minute after hitting the crossbar, Pp curled a ball into a top corner of the net five minutes into the second half.

Pp has struggled to establish himself in the team for Premier League games after moving to Arsenal from French club Lille last summer in a deal worth a reported 80 million euros ($89 million) but he's leading the charge in the Europa League.

He has scored three goals in the competition this season and set up another two for Arsenal.

Five minutes later, Joe Willock another academy product provided a fine cross for Nelson to tap in the second. Balogun finished it off from close range seven minutes from time.

Arsenal top Group B with 12 points, six more than Molde.

On target
Napoli’s Matteo Politano celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates. Photo: Reuters

Vardy scores late equaliser

Vardy equalised five minutes into stoppage time to put Europa League newcomers Leicester into the next stage.

Fransrgio had put the hosts 3-2 up four minutes earlier.

In the previous round, Leicester beat Braga 4-0 at home. This time, they were 1-0 down after Al Musrati scored four minutes into the game.

Harvey Barnes canceled that out five minutes later with an angled shot high into the net, but Paulinho restored the host's one-goal advantage in the 24th from close range.

Luke Thomas netted Leicester's second equaliser in the 79th.

Leicester lead Group G with 10 points, with Braga on seven. Zorya Luhansk won 3-0 at AEK Athens, putting both teams on three points.

Vincius gave Tottenham the lead 16 minutes into the game after he met a deflected pass from Dele Alli to beat Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev on-on-one.

The Brazilian added his second in the 34th. Tanguy Ndombl started the move with a run up the field before unleashing a low shot that was parried by Iliev, with Dele crossing for the forward to net again.

Harry Winks made it 3-0 in the second half from near the halfway line on the left, lobbying a spectacular shot over the keeper and into the net. It was his third goal for Spurs.

Vincius set up Lucas Moura in the box to finish the rout with his third goal in four Europa League games.

With nine points, Tottenham are tied atop Group J with Royal Antwerp, who won 2-0 at LASK.

Matteo Politano and Hirving Lozano scored for Napoli against Rijeka as the hosts paid tribute to Maradona, who led them to their only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.

Hoffenheim took the lead through Christoph Baumgartner in the 77th and substitute Andrej Kramaric added a penalty in the 89th as the German team advanced from Group L.

The Bundesliga club has 12 points, three more than Red Star Belgrade, who won 2-0 at Gent.

After Lille stunned AC Milan 3-0 at the San Siro in the previous round, they drew 1-1 with the Italian powerhouse at home to stay top of Group H with eight points. Milan are second, a point behind. Sparta Prague are another point back after beating Celtic 4-1 at home. Celtic have just one point.

In Group I, Villarreal lead with 10 points after a 1-1 away draw at 10-man Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Sivasspor are on six after winning 3-2 against Qarabag. 

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