Friday, 4 April 2014

Europa League Player of the Week: Matias Emilio Delgado

Europa League Player of the Week: Matias Emilio Delgado
The Argentine, who had not scored for Basel this season until Thursday's 3-0 triumph over Valencia, left the visitors lost for words in an empty St Jakob Park
Basel seem to enjoy being tagged as underdogs in the Europa League this season and, thanks to Matias Emilio Delgado's double on Thursday, the Swiss side unexpectedly hold a strong upper hand heading into their second-leg at Valencia.

Dropped extremely deep to pick up the ball and ignite the play. He still popped up in the right areas, though, finishing the game with two brilliant goals.

Their last-16 tie with Red Bull Salzburg saw them go 1-0 behind in the second-leg and see a man sent off, after a 0-0 home opener.

Playing with 10 men did not stop the visitors to the Red Bull Arena from causing an upset, however, as two second-half strikes stunned the Austrians and let Murat Yakin's men progress.

Faced with pre-match favourites Valencia in the opener, Basel were once again expected to bow out but Delgado's double changed the face of the game with half-time around the corner.

The central midfielder - who was brought back to the club last summer after a seven-year absence - thumped home an effort on 34 minutes before guiding his second of the night shortly afterwards.

Delgado's goalscoring heroics came from absolutely nowhere. The Argentine, 31, has not scored once in competitive matches this season and has featured sporadically in their European campaign which began in the Champions League last year before relegation with a third-place group finish behind Chelsea and Schalke.

Valentin Stocker grabbed a stoppage-time goal, dinking into the back of the despairing Spanish side's net, to secure a brilliant 3-0 win for Basel.

The emphatic victory was made even more impressive because St Jakob Park was bereft of the usual home support. Crowd trouble in the previous home tie - which had brought the game to a temporary halt, such was the commotion from Basel's visiting fans in Salzburg - saw Uefa crackdown by demanding the opening leg of the last eight be played behind closed doors.

Ironically, they will actually have more fans at Mestalla in a week's time and, with los Che on life support, the likes of Delgado will be hoping to at least match last year's Europa League semi-final showing by preventing capitulation.
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