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Atletico, Sporting Open Europa League Semifinals With Home Wins

Atletico Madrid and Sporting Lisbon won at home to open the semifinals of soccer’s Europa League.

Radamel Falcao got two goals to help 2010 champion Atletico beat Valencia 4-2 last night. Emiliano Insua and Diego Capel scored in the final 14 minutes as Sporting rallied to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1.

Bilbao and Valencia will host the return matches in Spain on April 26. The winners over two games will meet in the final of Europe’s second-tier club competition May 9 in Bucharest.

Historically in Europe, a 4-2 home victory in the opening match has given teams a 70 percent chance of winning over two games, according to Infostrada Sports. Teams leading 2-1 after their home match have advanced 48 percent of the time.

Falcao opened the scoring in Madrid in the 18th minute and Jonas tied the game in first-half injury time. Miranda, Adrian Lopez and Falcao then scored in the second half before Valencia’s Ricardo Costa netted in injury time.

Falcao now has 10 goals to tie Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the competition lead. The Colombian joined Atletico after scoring a record 17 goals to lead Porto to last season’s Europa League title.

In Portugal, defender Jon Aurtenetxe put Bilbao in front in the 54th minute. Insua pulled Sporting even with a header in the 76th minute and Capel won the game four minutes later with a shot from 25 yards out (23 meters).

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