The group stages of the Europa League have finally kicked off, and the race for a place in the final held in Gdansk is on. The Thursday night action has largely been downplayed throughout recent seasons, but some of the most entertaining games can happen in this competition.
The group stages have been known to throw up some shock results down the years. if matchday one is anything to go by then the 2019-20 offers to be no different.
Group A – Qarabag FK 0-3 Sevilla
No team has won the Europa League more often than Sevilla. Their three successes in a row between 2014 and 2016 means that they will be one of the serious players in this year’s competition, and they wasted little time in stamping their authority on Group A.
They traveled to Garabag for the opening group stage match, and after a disappointing first half, the Spanish giants finally broke the deadlock in the second period.
Javier Hernandez celebrated a return to European action following a move from West Ham with the opening goal 15 minutes after the break. Before two goals in the final 15 minutes from Munir El Haddadi and Oliver Torres epitomized their dominance.
Group A- APOEL Nicosia 3-4 Dudelange
Perhaps one of the biggest shocks in the opening round of fixtures came as APOEL were beaten at home by Dudelange. The visitors stormed until a 2-0 lead through strikes from Daniel Sinani and Antoine Bernier.
However, the game was turned on its head by APOEL, who scored three goals in four minutes to lead 3-2.
Dudelange didn’t give up however and scored two more of their own in the final 20 minutes through Stolz and Sinani to take all three points. This was the first-ever win of a team from Luxembourg in any international competition group stage.
Group B – Copenhagen 1-0 Lugano
The most open group in this season’s Europa League is Group B, and Copenhagen made a winning start at home against Lugano.
The only goal of the game was scored by Michael Santos five minutes into the second half.
Group B – Dynamo Kyiv 1-0 Malmo
Dynamo Kyiv joined Copenhagen at the top of Group B with a hard-fought win over Swedish outfit Malmo.
The teams were deadlocked up until the final five minutes when Vitaliy Buyalskyi finally broke the stalemate.
Group C – Basel 5-0 FC Krasnodar
Swiss outfit Basel made the perfect start to their Europa League campaign with a dominant display against Krasnodar. The visitors had famously knocked out FC Porto during the Champions League qualification campaign but were no match for Basel.
There was a brace for Kevin Bua, as well as goals for Luca Zuffi, Tonny Vilhena and Noah Okafor for the hosts.
Group C – Getafe 1-0 Trabzonspor
Getafe joined Basel by making a perfect start of their own, but they weren’t as threatening in front of goal.
Angel Rodriguez scored the only goal of the game for the hosts within the opening 20 minutes.
Group D – PSV Eindhoven 3-2 Sporting CP
The two top seeds in Group D did battle to start their campaigns in the Europa League. Sporting dominated the possession throughout but fell victim to starting the slower.
A strike from Donyell Malen and an own goal from Sebastian Coates gave the Dutch side a 2-0 lead. Bruno Fernandes pulled one back for the visitors before the break, but the two-goal lead was restored by Timo Baumgarti three minutes into the second half.
Sporting continued to push for a way back into the game and finally scored a second with eight minutes remaining through Pedro Mendes. But, unfortunately, it was too little too late.
Group D – LASK 1-0 Rosenborg
LASK joined PSV at the top of Group D with a hard-fought win over Rosenborg. The only goal of the game came in first-half injury time and was scored by James Holland.
Group E – CFR Cluj 2-1 Lazio
However, Romanian side Cluj came fighting back and levelled the scores before half time through Ciprian Deac. Despite only finishing the match with 33% possession, Cluj churned out their second shot on target through BIllel Omrani with 15 minutes remaining to take all three points.
Group E – Rennes 1-1 Celtic
The other game in the group saw the honors shared. A first-half penalty from M’Baye Niang was leveled by a Ryan Christie penalty for the visitors 15 minutes into the second half.
Celtic also ended the game with ten after a red card to Vakoun Bayo.
Group F- Eintracht 0-3 Arsenal
In the battle between two of last season’s semi-finalists, it was Arsenal that reigned supreme. The Gunners looked suspect throughout the match, but their Bundesliga hosts were unable to take their chances.
Arsenal pounced on the counter-attack, and Joe Willock put Unai Emery’s side ahead. The second was scored by Bukayo Saka, who delightfully curled a ball around the Frankfurt goalkeeper into the bottom left-hand corner from 18-yards out. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wrapped up the win with a late third.
Group F – Standard Liege 2-0 Vitoria SC
Standard Liege joined the Gunners at the top of Group F by winning at home against Vitoria. The hosts had to wait until the second half to break the deadlock.
An own goal from Florent Hanin put them ahead before Paul-Jose M’Poku wrapped up the win in injury time.
Group G – FC Porto 2-1 Young Boys
It was an exciting first half in Portugal as three goals were shared. Tiquinho Soares put the hosts ahead after seven minutes before Jean-Pierre Nsame leveled the scores after 15 minutes, from the penalty spot.
However, Porto quickly got their noses back in front as Soares scored his second of the game.
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Group G – Rangers 1-0 Feyenoord
Rangers joined the Portuguese giants at the top of the group with a hard-fought win at Ibrox.
Former Liverpool player Sheyi Ojo scored the only goal of the game after 23 minutes.
Group H – Espanyol 1-1 Ferencvaros
La Liga side Espanyol had their blushes sparred as Matias Vargas scored an equalizer 30 minutes from time against Ferencvaros. The visitors had taken the lead through an own goal from Javi Lopez ten minutes in.
Group H – Ludogorets 5-1 CSKA Moscow
It was an excellent second-half performance from Ludogorets as they scored five in the second period to overcome a 1-0 deficit.
The goals for the hosts were scored by Wanderson Farias and Jody Lukoki, as well as a hat-trick from Romanian striker Claudio Keseru.
Group I – Wolfsburg 3-1 Oleksanriya
Bundesliga side Wolfsburg enjoyed an excellent start to their Europa League campaign with an efficient home win.
Maximillian Arnold and Admir Mehmedi put them into a two-goal lead. Before Josip Berkalo quickly added a third after Yevhen Benada had pulled one back for the visitors.
Group I – Gent 3-2 St-Etienne
Gent joined Wolfsburg at the top of Group I with a hard-fought win over Ligue 1 side St-Etienne. Jonathan David put the hosts ahead before Wahbi Khazri equalized.
David fired the hosts back ahead before an own goal from Loic Perrin gave them a two-goal advantage. There was another own goal later in the game by Gent’s Thomas Kaminski, but the hosts held on.
Group J – Roma 4-0 Istanbul Basaksehir
Serie A side Roma powered to a 4-0 home win over their Turkish opponents. It was a confident night for Paulo Fonseca and his men.
An own goal from Junior Caicara put them ahead, before Edin Dzeko, Nicolo Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert wrapped up a comfortable evening.
Group J – Monchengladbach 0-4 Wolfsberg
It was an embarrassing evening for Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach as they were hammered 4-0 in their own backyard.
Austrian club Wolfsberg, in their first Europa League campaign, dominated the match. The goals for the visitors were scored by Mario Leitgeb, Marcelo Ritzmaier and a brace for Shon Weissman.
Group K – Wolves 0-1 Braga
It was a miserable return to European action for Premier League side Wolves as their poor start to the new season continued. They failed to register a single shot on target in the first half.
They were made to pay the maximum price for failing to turn up when Ricardo Horta struck to give the visitors all three points.
Group K – Slovan Bratislava 4-2 Besiktas
The other game in Group K also produced a shock result as a brace from Andraz Sporar led Slovan to a 4-2 win over Besiktas.
The other goals for the hosts were scored by Marin Ljubicic and Khadfi Rharsalla in injury time.
Group L – Manchester United 1-0 Astana
The Red Devils made a good start to their Europa League campaign, but they were far from impressive. United had to wait until midway through the second half to break the deadlock as Mason Greenwood scored his first professional goal on his second appearance for the club.
The 17-year-old was impressive throughout and deserved his goal as he is United’s back-up strike following the departures of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to Inter Milan.
Group L – Partizan 2-2 AZ Alkmaar
AZ Alkmaar would be pleased with their point picked up in Belgrade; especially considering that they played for an hour with ten men after a straight red to Jonas Svensson.
Calvin Stengs put the visitors ahead before a brace from Bibras Natkho turned the game around. However, AZ saved a point as Myron Boadu leveled the scores.