Arsenal and Chelsea boosted their odds of winning the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, with the Gunners beating Valencia 3-1 and the Blues earning a 1-1 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt in the first legs of the semi-finals.
The Gunners overcame an early deficit to put three goals past a disappointing Neto, while Chelsea bagged a crucial away goal in Germany, handing them the edge for the second leg.
According to Bet365 (h/t Oddschecker), the Blues are now 10-11 favourites to win the Europa League, while Arsenal come in at 2-1. Valencia are 6-1, and Frankfurt are down to 12-1.
The Gunners’ efforts to keep a clean sheet came undone after just 11 minutes when some horrendous defending gave Mouctar Diakhaby the chance to head home from close range.
Fortunately for the hosts, Valencia were unable to press their advantage. A quick double from Alexandre Lacazette had Arsenal ahead after just 26 minutes, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added to the lead in the second half.
Spanish football writer Sid Lowe thought Valencia stopper Neto didn’t look good on any of the goals:
Arsenal desperately needed a positive result after three straight defeats in the Premier League, against Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton and Leicester. While their bid to finish in the top four isn’t dead yet―they trail Chelsea by two points with two matches still to play―the Europa League appears the most straight-forward path to next year’s UEFA Champions League at this point.
Per BT Sport, it was no coincidence Lacazette and Aubameyang came through for the Gunners:
The two-goal advantage is huge against a slumping Valencia side, who have now lost their last three matches across all competitions. Their last home match in the Europa League was a 2-0 win over Villarreal, and only Krasnodar has managed to score at the Estadio Mestalla in the competition this season.
Chelsea also fell behind on Thursday, as Luka Jovic gave Frankfurt the lead with a great header, but Pedro equalised just before half-time. Neither side was able to convert one of their many chances after the break, with the better looks falling to the Blues.
While the away goal is a major advantage for Chelsea, sportswriter Ronan Murphy noted the return of Ante Rebic in the second leg will be a big boost for Eintracht:
Eintracht struggled to impose their will on the visitors, however, especially after Eden Hazard came on. If Chelsea can control the ball this well on the road, they should be able to do the same at home.
Frankfurt’s scoring potential on the road is no joke: The Germans have scored at least once in every away match they’ve played in the Europa League this season, and that includes difficult trips to Benfica, Inter Milan, Marseille, Lazio Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk