AMSTERDAM – A trio of US internationals kicked off Europa League quarterfinal action on Thursday, with Jozy Altidore and AZ Alkmaar grabbing a 2-1 first-leg victory over visiting Valencia.
The US striker worked 77 minutes up top, departing just before Maarten Martens broke the deadlock. The sides will reunite next Thursday at the Mestalla to decide who advances to the final four.
Elsewhere, Steve Cherundolo was strong at right back, but Hannover 96 leaked conceded late to suffer a 2-1 opening leg loss at 2010 tourney champs Atlético Madrid.
The Reds looked all set to send the tie home with an away-goal draw, only to have Eduardo Salvio curl home beautifully from 20 yards in the 89th minute. Hannover will now hope for an AWD-Arena rally on April 5, with the aggregate winner in line to face the AZ-Valencia survivor in the semifinals.
Jermaine Jones and Schalke shockingly fell apart late to end up on the wrong side of a 4-2 decision against rude guests Atheltic Bilbao.
The Miners fought back from an early deficit to take the lead near the hour, but poor defending and goaltending wrecked the victory party over the last quarter-hour. A Jones giveaway led to the stoppage-time capper, which gave Schalke a hard road in the away leg.
Also, Sporting CP took a 2-1 win from the home leg against Metalist Kharkiv without the services of recovering defender Oguchi Onyewu.