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Biggest Shocks in Europa League History


Biggest Shocks in Europa League History

In sport, there’s always the underdogs who valiantly perform and often fall just short of victory. However, some of these admirable performers actually pull off seismic shocks which make supporters sit up and take note.

In Europa League football, there’s always the ‘bigger’ teams that are favourites to progress to the latter stages. And, in this context, a shock would constitute a relatively small team knocking a bigger team out or pulling off an unbelievable comeback. This article looks at five big shocks in the Europa League, with most of them for different reasons.

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Napoli 0-3 Viktoria Plzen (2013)

In the season prior to this, Napoli were making headway in the Champions League and came close to eliminating Chelsea, which would have been a huge shock despite boasting talents like Edinson Cavani, Marek Hasmik, and Lorenzo Insigne.

Despite being close to pulling off the shock of the round, in the 2013 Europa League, Napoli were on the receiving end of a big shock after being thrashed 3-0 by Viktoria Plzen. The aggregate score was even more embarrassing, losing 5-0 to the Czech side in a result which sent shockwaves around Europe.

What was truly shocking was the Czech side ran riot in Naples scoring three unanswered goals to startle a side seen as one of the pre-tournament favourites. This is a great example of a lower-profile team being given an opportunity to duel with the best on a large scale and make a name for themselves in Europa League history.

Tottenham 2-2 Gent (2017)

Typically, Premier League clubs are expected to go deep in the respective European competitions. Spurs have flirted with success in recent times, but on this occasion, they were humbled by Gent.

The initial 2-2 score line at Wembley capped off a disappointing campaign and falling out at the round of 32 stage. Despite Christian Eriksen giving Spurs the lead, a Harry Kane own goal and a Dele Alli red card turned things on its head. With Spurs expected to dominate proceedings, Victor Wanyama gave Spurs the lead before being pegged back by substitute Jeremy Perbet.

Spurs needed the win after having a shock 1-0 defeat in the first leg, so the equaliser gave Gent an insurmountable lead which Spurs simply couldn’t respond to. The Belgian side pulled off a huge scalp in this campaign, not only at Wembley but also by doing the hard work on home soil to give them an advantage.

Manchester United 2-3 Athletic Club (2012)

Manchester United in their pomp is certainly a challenge in itself to try and get anything from the game, let alone on home soil at Old Trafford. Marcelo Bielsa seems to have cracked the code on this one though in beating United twice in a week.

Bielsa was at the helm at Athletic Club in La Liga which featured Ander Herrera, Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente, he led his side to a pulsating 3-2 victory at Old Trafford with the job half done.

Perhaps underestimating the challenge, Sir Alex brought the big guns back into the fold for the second leg. Despite the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick coming back in, they were powerless to stop Athletic from picking up a famous 2-1 win.

The Spanish outfit played out two enthralling matches against the English giants and it's fair to say this tie was enthralling but also one of the biggest shocks due to the fact they did the double over United.

Fulham 4-1 Juventus (2010)

Another English team is involved in the list of shocks in the Europa League and this time, it’s for the right reasons.

When Fulham were drawn against Juventus for the last 16 during the 2009/10 season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to believe Juventus would be victorious. The Italian side weren’t in their prime going into this era but they boasted world-class players such as David Trezeguet, Mauro Camoranesi, Alessandro Del Piero and 2006 Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro.

The overwhelming favourites were completely dismantled on the road at Craven Cottage, despite beating Fulham 3-1 in Turin heading into the second leg. The turnaround was astonishing, with Juventus having both centre-backs sent off whilst being 1-0 up.

Ok, given the circumstances Fulham had a massive slice of luck, but nothing was lucky about Clint Dempsey perfecting an audacious lob which secured one of the greatest comebacks in European history and will live long on the memory of the Cottagers who have struggled to reach those heights in recent years.

Dnipro 1-0 Napoli (2015)

Napoli feature twice in this article, and for a second time, they’ve been subjected to a shock in the Europa League.

Facing a Ukrainian side defying all odds and eventually featuring in the Europa League final in the previous season, they managed to get out of a tough group facing Saint-Etienne, before putting aside Olympiacos, Ajax, and Club Brugge to get into the semi-final.

Stunning the football world again, they dispatched Napoli who were one of the favourites yet again to win the tournament. But, Dnipro fell short of silverware after losing to serial winners Sevilla, which sparked a major nosedive for the club which ceased being a club in 2019, four years after one of the most exhilarating and greatest seasons in the club's history.