Emily Wilson·21 September 2023
Emily Wilson·21 September 2023
The football hasn’t slowed down whatsoever, with the 2023-24 Europa League campaign officially underway.
Here is what went down on Thursday.
Scorer: Pedro 30′ (P), 65′ (P); Sidibé 11′, Gacinovic 40′, Ponce 84′
Brighton played in their first-ever European fixture but will walk away with plenty of homework after a labouring 90 minutes.
Roberto De Zerbi’s side conceded 11 minutes in when Djibril Sidibé blasted his header home beyond Jason Steele to signal this competition is a level up.
A bit of luck went the way of the Seagulls when VAR asked the referee to review a potential penalty. João Pedro (who was initially booked for diving) stepped up and converted to become the club’s first scorer in European competition.
A mental lapse, however, allowed the visitors to retake the lead when Mijat Gacinovic turned things 2-1 just before the break.
Another stroke of luck (or rather a poor decision from AEK Athens) gave Brighton a second opportunity to right their wrongs from the penalty spot. Pedro was kicked in the shin, and VAR helped the No. 9 make things level.
However, the visitors never shied away from the challenge and stunned De Zerbi and company when Ezequiel Ponce easily rolled the ball home from point-blank range for 3-2. The result will be a big lesson for the Premier League side.
Scorer: Petrović 66′ (OG), Kudus 70′, Soucek 82′; Stanic 47′
Europa Conference League holders West Ham are set on winning another European trophy but were made to work against Backa Topola.
David Moyes’ side ran circles around the visitors in the opening half with a staggering 15 shots and 77% possession but a mental lapse from Angelo Ogbonna gifted the visitors the opener.
Peter Stanic bullied the West Ham man off the ball and when one-on-one against Lucas Fabianski, converted cooly.
Moyes’ men then ramped up the pressure, and Said Benrahma created the equaliser. He ran down the wing, cut back and crossed the ball into Mohammed Kudus – but it hit off Nemanja Petrović for 1-1.
The former Ajax man later ensured he got on the scoresheet properly through a thumping header (it was the summer signing’s first goal for the club) before a second header this time from Thomas Soucek eased any pressure late on.
Notably, James Ward-Prowse continued his stellar run of either scoring or assisting in every match for the club so far.
Scorer: Borges 9′, Berghuis 20′, Taylor 52′; Clauss 23′, Aubameyang 40′
The Dutch giants sit close to relegation in the Eredivisie, while the French side saw their manager opt to depart a few days ago.
Carlos Borges made the most of a missed clearance and chipped home the game’s first chance to put Ajax ahead early before Steven Berghuis doubled things with a volley from near the top of the box.
Marseille, however, eventually demonstrated they were very much still in the game.
Brilliant footwork from Jonathan Clauss beat four defenders and halved the deficit before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s one-time finish snuck in at the near post. It was his 25th goal in the competition after 50 games.
Goals arrived in the second half as well as Ajax swung things back in their favour via Kenneth Taylor, who ran into the box and blasted home.
Aubemeyang then ensured the points were split after he acted as the hero again and drilled home for 3-3 in and off the post.
Chances were few and far between throughout the match, with only a combined four on target (two each) across the first 45 minutes. By full-time, there were only nine (Rangers led with five).
The lone goal and eventual winner arrived just after the hour mark when Abdallah Sima got on the end of a chaotic corner and put the hosts up after slamming a loose ball home.
Scorer: Flecker 14′; Nunez 56′ (P), Diaz 63′
Liverpool were made to work over 90 minutes after Jürgen Klopp’s decision to play younger names perhaps returned to bite him.
The Reds failed to register any shots on target against LASK over the opening half an hour. With no clear game plan or energy, the visitors were clearly puzzled.
Flat defending allowed the hosts to take a shock lead when a wide-open Florian Flecker struck from range for 1-0.
The scoreline forced Klopp to rejig his game plan and a little bit of luck went Liverpool’s way before the big guns finally stepped up.
After being denied from point-blank range in the first half, Darwin Nunez slotted home a penalty following a challenge on Luis Diaz. Seven minutes later, Ryan Gravenberch combined with Diaz and turned things around 2-1.
To cap off the performance, Mo Salah scored a third off the bench to ease any pressure.
Despite the win, the result will still leave Klopp wondering why his initial starting XI didn’t turn up as well as they should have for a European fixture.
Scorer: Tovar 57′; Kiki 45+5 (OG), Lukaku 65′
José Mourinho’s Roma were made to work against a formidable Sherrif side in order to keep hold of all three points.
A quiet first half kept the match well up for grabs between these two. Unfortunately for the visitors, Renato Sanches was forced off with a muscle injury.
However, a little luck struck just before half-time when the ball bounced into the net after a free-kick and an own-goal turned the match in favour of Roma.
Coming into the second half a flat-footed defence allowed Cristian Tvar to poke home for 1-1 and a shock was potentially on the cards.
That was until Mourinho’s big man Romelu Lukaku stepped up to the plate and scored in his 12th consecutive Europa League game (16 goals) to hand the Italian side the win. He currently holds the longest streak in the competition.
Scorer: Wirtz 10′, Aldi 16′, Boniface 66′, Hoffmann 69′
Current Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen switched their focus to Europe on Thursday but shone just as brightly as they do in the German top flight.
A healthy Florian Wirtz kickstarted the party with a brilliant chip over the goalkeeper before the hosts doubled their lead when Amine Adli blasted home a cross from Granit Xhaka.
Häcken managed to keep Leverkusen fairly tame in the second half, but new signing Victor Boniface eventually scored his sixth goal for the club in six games.
Substitute Jonas Hoffmann then scored a fourth as Xabi Alonso’s side once again demonstrated they may be one of the hottest teams to watch this year.
Scorer: Ioannidis 38′, Šporar 78′
Villarreal will have wanted to put their internal woes behind them following the sacking of Quique Setien only four matches into the LaLiga season. But that was not the case in Greece.
Panathinaikos piled misery on the Spanish side’s season so far with a dominant win at home.
Fotis Ioannidis opened the scoring after he was played into the box and chipped Pepe Reina. It was the first shot all game for the hosts and their first in the competition in seven years.
Despite the likes of Ben Brereton Díaz, Gerard Moreno, Dani Parejo and others, the lacklustre visitors only had one shot on target.
Andraž Šporar later put the game out of reach when his low drive from the top of the box trickled into the net.
Now time for us to catch our breath!