The UEFA Europa League group stage kicked off on Thursday with 24 matches which featured three Premier League club, including two of the Big Six in Arsenal and Spurs, as well as Italian giants AC Milan and Portuguese giants Benfica. Below you’ll find Thursday’s slate with live updates, takeaways and top goals of the day. Highlights include Bayer Leverkusen dominating Nice, a perfect run for Premier League teams and an upset for Napoli.
Group stage: Matchday 1 scores
- Young Boys 1, Roma 2
- CSKA-Sofia 0, CFR Cluj 2
- Dundalk 1, Molde 2
- Rapid Wien 1, Arsenal 2
- Bayer Leverkusen 6, Nice 2
- Hapoel Beer-Sheva 3, Slavia Prague 1
- Standard Liege 0, Rangers 2
- Lech Poznan 2, Benfica 4
- PSV Eindhoven 1, Granada 2
- PAOK 1, Omonoia 1
- Napoli 0, AZ Alkmaar 1
- Rijeka 0, Real Sociedad 1
- Braga 3, AEK Athens 0
- Leicester City 3, Zorya Luhansk 0
- Sparta Prague 1, Lille 4
- Celtic 1, AC Milan 3
- Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1, Qarabag 0
- Villarreal 5, Sivasspor 3
- Tottenham 3, LASK 0
- Ludogorets 1, Royal Antwerp 2
- Dinamo Zagreb 0, Feyenoord 0
- Wolfsberger 1, CSKA Moscow 1
- Hoffenheim 2, Red Star Belgrade 0
- Slovan Liberec 1, Gent 0
Arsenal come back to life
Arsenal were supposed to be the better team on paper, but no one apparently told the English club of this prior to their Thursday match against Rapid Wien. A scoreless first half revealed that while the Gunners had the more talented players, it was their Austrian opponents who looked better on the field. There was more control from Wien and they threatened for frequently than Mikel Arteta’s men — at least to the extent that either defense was threatened during the opening 45 minutes. This led to a situation where it was Wien who scored the opener thanks to a baffling mistake from Arsenal’s defense. That concession, however, was exactly what Arsenal needed to wake up. The attacking was turned up, leading to a David Luiz header to equalize less than 20 minutes after Wien broke the deadlock. Then came super sub, but typical starter, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang to tap in the second so that Arsenal could take a 2-1 lead, and total control of the match, with the remaining minutes taking place like they should have on paper. A win is a win, but if Arsenal are going to rely on this playing possum routine to succeed in Europa League, they’ll find their favorited path to a title in the competition a lot more precarious than it should be.
Milan continue historic dominance over Celtic
These two renowned clubs have met one another 11 times in European competitions, but it’d be a stretch to call this a rivalry. Only once has the Scottish side come away with three points during all of their encounters, and it seemed like Wednesday was going to be no different with Milan just overwhelming Celtic with their superior talent. Somewhere in the second half Milan took their foot off the pedal, allowing Mohamed Elyounoussi to get one back for the champions of Scotland, and for the club to actually provide some threatening waves of offense that forced the Italian club into some frantic defending. But such threats only have so much value when they don’t result in any goals, as was the case for Celtic on Thursday. Where this really becomes a problem is late in the game, when a talented team like Milan are able to pounce on one of the few opportunities given to them to score a back-breaking injury time goal that seals the match — which is what Jens Petter Hauge did to make it 3-1 in the second minute of extra time. Celtic’s record against Milan is now one win, three draws and seven losses.
A tale of two clubs
Napoli’s 4-1 defeat over Atalanta this past weekend Serie A served as a foil for each club’s eventual performance in European competition this week. After being on the wrong end of that trouncing, Atalanta bounced back with a dominant 4-0 win over Midtjylland in their opening match of their Champions League campaign. Napoli, meanwhile, were incapable of turning their high-scoring victory into any meaningful momentum during their Europa League match on Thursday against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. They suffered a cagey 1-0 defeat against their opponents. It would have been fine had AZ pulled out the victory thanks to their best players competing at a higher level, and their manager developing masterful tactics, but that wasn’t exactly the case. In fact AZ were at an extra disadvantage due to a COVID wave that hit the club earlier this week. According to reports, 13 players were infected with the respiratory disease, which include four that had tested positive before a Dutch league game last weekend. Napoli should consider outplaying the team decimated with a disease that has caused a global pandemic next time.
The outright winner of the evening’s best goal comes from Kemar Roofe of Rangers F.C. The absolute golazo came in injury time with Standard Liege sending everyone forward, and the keeper being off his line. Roofe recognized the situation and blasted a shot from around midfield, which floated right into the net from all the way down there.