Soccer

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang lifts Arsenal past Rennes, into Europa League quarterfinals

AP, AFP-JIJI

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored two goals and set up another Arsenal overturned a two-goal deficit to reach the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-0 home win over Rennes on Thursday.

There were two upsets, though, as five-time champion Sevilla and Inter Milan were both eliminated.

Sevilla lost 4-3 at Slavia Prague after conceding a last-minute goal in extra time to go out 6-5 on aggregate, while Eintracht Frankfurt beat Inter 1-0 to advance.

At the Emirates Stadium, Aubameyang celebrated his second goal by pulling on a Black Panther mask he had placed behind the advertising boards, after coming to the rescue for an Arsenal side that lost the first leg 3-1 in France last week.

The Gunners erased that deficit in just 15 minutes, with Aubameyang scoring early and then setting up Ainsley Maitland-Niles for the second, before adding his second in the 72nd.

But 18 minutes from time, Arsenal had a cushion when Sead Kolasinac’s wonderful low cross left Aubameyang with a simple task to tap home his 22nd goal of the season and celebrated by pulling on a Black Panther mask.

Aubameyang needed it back to hide his embarrassment soon after as he missed two glorious chances in the space of 60 seconds to seal his hat trick.

“I missed two chances to close the game but the most important thing is that we won and everybody is happy and proud,” said Aubameyang.

“I needed a mask which represents me and that’s the Black Panther. In Gabon we call the national team the Panthers.”

But Aubameyang’s blushes were spared as Arsenal held out to continue the Premier League’s resurgence and leave France without a single representative in the quarterfinals of either European competition.

Another favorite, Benfica, needed extra time to advance, eliminating Dinamo Zagreb 3-1 on aggregate.

Chelsea had the most comfortable evening, and biggest victory, as Olivier Giroud celebrated his 50th European game by scoring a hat trick in a 5-0 rout of Dynamo Kiev.

Marcos Alonso and Callum Hudson-Odoi also had one apiece for Chelsea.

Elsewhere, Napoli advanced 4-3 on aggregate against last year’s semifinalist Salzburg despite losing the second leg 3-1.

Valencia advanced thanks to an injury-time goal from substitute Goncalo Guedes that secured a 1-1 draw at Krasnodar and a 3-2 aggregate victory, while Villarreal eliminated Zenit St. Petersburg 5-2 on aggregate.