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Europa League quarter-finals: Four players who impressed

The Europa League quarter-finals kicked off this week and it was a bad night for the Premier League clubs still in the competition.

Liverpool and West Ham each suffered first-leg defeats that look difficult to turn around, while Roma edged the first encounter of a huge all-Italian tie with Milan.

Following Thursday’s action, we’ve picked out four players who impressed.

Gianluca Scamacca – Atalanta

Gianluca Scamacca failed to set the world alight during his time at West Ham but the forward certainly made his mark on his return to England this week. Scamacca scored twice as Atalanta pulled off a stunning shock to humble Liverpool 3-0 at Anfield, extending his recent record to five goals in his last five games in all competitions.

He swept in the opener on 38 minutes as a low effort evaded Caoimhin Kelleher’s grasp. Scamacca’s second arrived after the break when he converted Charles De Ketelaere’s cross with a fabulous first-time finish after finding himself unmarked in the box.

The 25-year-old was involved again in the build-up to the third and came close to a hat-trick with a header that just cleared the crossbar. A handful all evening, this was a message to Luciano Spalletti after being dropped from the Italy squad last month.

Jonas Hofmann – Bayer Leverkusen

Off the bench to help Bayer Leverkusen break the stubborn resistance of West Ham at the BayArena. The treble dream of Xabi Alonso’s side remains on after a 2-0 win over the Europa Conference League holders in Germany, though it took until the 83rd minute – and Hofmann’s arrival from the bench – to find a route past Lukasz Fabianski.

The 31-year-old fired in a left-footed volley through traffic after a set-piece fell invitingly inside the box, before turning provider to set up Victor Boniface for the stoppage-time second. The two substitutes combined to give Leverkusen a two-goal advantage ahead of the trip to London, as Hofmann’s wonderful cross found the head of the Nigerian.

Leverkusen’s dream season continues to go from strength to strength.

Angel Di Maria – Benfica

Angel Di Maria continues to prove he’s got plenty left in the tank with the 36-year-old’s return to Benfica having been a roaring success this season.

The Argentine has now scored 16 goals in all competition after netting his side’s second in their 2-1 win over Marseille. His impressive goal return has come alongside 13 assists and the World Cup winner remains as influential as ever in the final third.

Against Marseille, some of his passing was exceptional as he completed 9/11 long balls and worked, typically, out of possession with six ball recoveries. He might be in the twilight of a decorated career but Di Maria is showing few signs of slowing down. His contribution has provided Benfica with a lead to protect ahead of their trip to The Stade Vélodrome.

Paulo Dybala – Roma

Gianluca Mancini was the match-winner as Roma secured a first win against AC Milan at the San Siro for seven years, with the capital club set to take a precious lead into the return of their all-Italian tie.

The goalscorer was quick to point out the contribution of Paulo Dybala at full-time, however, with the Argentina international at his creative best.

“Roma hadn’t won at San Siro since 2017 and winning the derby gives great desire to do even more,” Mancini said.

“I saw players like Dybala give their all and this pushed everyone to do their best. It’s all open, but we were aware we could come to San Siro to get a result and we proved it.”

Dybala was excellent in and out of possession, completing 91.7% of his passes, winning 7/10 ground duels and setting up Mancini’s winner with a superb set-piece delivery. He has been a driving force in Roma’s revival under Daniele De Rossi this season.

Read – Klopp says Liverpool must ‘sleep badly’ after Atalanta defeat

See more – Scamacca strikes leave Liverpool on brink of European exit

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