Europa League matchday two roundup
It was a largely disappointing night for Portuguese clubs in the Europa League. In the afternoon games, despite creating chances a-plenty, Porto lost 2-0 at Feyenoord, while Braga let victory slip in the dying minutes of a 2-2 draw against Slovan Bratislava at the quarry. The late kick-offs saw Sporting grab a fortunate victory against LASK, but Vitória Guimarães had no such luck as they were defeated by Eintracht Frankfurt.
Elsewhere it was a good night for Wolves while the football-starved Diogo Dalot and Ronny Lopes got minutes under their belts.
Sporting 2-1 LASK Linz
Despite being outplayed for the majority of the match, Sporting got their Europa League campaign up and running with a 2-1 comeback victory over Austrian outfit LASK Linz in Lisbon tonight.
New coach Silas tried out a new three-at-the-back system, but it backfired spectacularly with the home side all at sea in the opening 20 minutes. So bad were Sporting, with Mathieu and Coates especially looking washed up and nothing like the quality defenders from previous seasons, that it was difficult to gauge how good LASK were. In those harrowing opening 20 minutes it looked like Barcelona against a team of semi-professionals. And the amateurs were playing in green and white.
Right from the kick-off LASK were a threat, Sporting goalkeeper Renan making two desperate saves before a minute had been played as the Austrians completely overwhelmed the hosts with Sporting barely able to get out of their own defensive third. It was no surprise when Marko Raguz put the visitors ahead on 16 minutes, turning smartly in the box and smashing a fine finish past Renan after another crass mistake by Mathieu.
Sporting got something of a grip on the game as the half wore on, although LASK continued in the ascendency, and the start of the second half was a similar story as the chances kept coming for the visitors, Trauner heading just over and Goinginger given all the time in the world in the box to turn but he blasted his shot just wide. Moments later the same player slid an effort into the side-netting as a second goal for the Austrians looked inevitable.
Out of nowhere Sporting enjoyed a fine five-minute spell and it proved enough to turn around the game. Luiz Phellype headed in the equaliser from a Bruno Fernandes corner, and the roles were reversed soon after as the Brazilian striker played in the Sporting captain who rattled a rasping cross-shot into the net off the post. In between Fernandes also came close with a free-kick that forced Schlager into a scrambling save.
Now in the lead, Sporting retreated and the game resumed a familiar pattern, with the visiting team playing all the football and creating chances against a confidence-shorn and visibly nervous home side. The Lions held on thanks to a combination of poor finishing and some excellent saves by Renan, and could have given the scoreline an even more unjust look in the final seconds as Phellype’s effort on the counter-attack was well saved by Schlager.
LASK’s dominance is reflected in the statistics, the Austrians winning on shots (22-12), shots on targets (7-4), corners (12-7) and possession (53%-47%), but the one statistic that mattered was in Sporting’s favour, the 2-1 victory making it two wins out of two for new coach Silas.
“We found it difficult to deal with their intensity and quality,” admitted Sporting captain Bruno Fernandes. “We made mistakes because of our lack of confidence, but now the coach will transmit his ideas with this two-week break. We’re at a demanding club and with more confidence we’ll play better. The coach has very good ideas, he wants us to play attacking, possession-based football, and the fans will like it.”
Feyenoord 2-0 FC Porto
Sergio Conceição’s men travelled to Holland in search of a second win in as many Europa League games following their victory over Young Boys.
The dragons started well, pressing Feyenoord and moving the ball about well, without creating too many clear-cut chances. It was a pretty uneventful first half in truth and it wasn’t until after the restart that the game burst into life.
Just three minutes after the break, Feyenoord went ahead through Toornstra. Marchesin initially parried an effort wide which Pepe latched onto, the veteran was hustled off the ball and as the ball came back into the box, Toornstra with a lovely finish put it past Marchesin. Porto’s inability to clear their lines properly cost them dearly and it’s fair to say the goal had been coming. For the last 10 minutes before half-time and for the first few minutes of the second-half, Feyenoord were hunting for the opener.
Porto had initially piled on the pressure, creating chances in the first half through Nakajima, Zé Luis and Pepe, and after falling behind opportunity after opportunity came their way, but the Dragons often got the final ball wrong. Finally, another clear-cut chance came Porto’s way, Marega receiving the ball six yards out but he somehow managed to get his foot underneath it and put it over the bar when it looked harder to miss.
Otávio hit the bar with an effort in the 62nd minute and just over 10 minutes later, Luís Diaz also smashed the underside of the crossbar with an effort, the commentator expressing what the rest of us were thinking: “How on earth have FC Porto not scored so far?” It was starting to look like it just wasn’t going to be Porto’s night at Feyenoord.
After constant Porto pressure, they were made to pay for their missed chances. On the counter-attack Rick Karsdorp put the game to bed with a sensational goal in the 79th minute. He picked the ball up just after the halfway line before gliding past Alex Telles and then Pepe, before placing the ball under Marchesin’s legs. The Porto defence was wide open, as it had been throughout the second half due to the visitor’s attacking commitments.
In the 89th minute the Feyenoord goalkeeper Vermeer made two great saves in quick succession, denying Tiquinho Soares from just a couple of yards out, with the ball again hitting the frame of the goal.
A harsh footballing lesson but a valuable one. If you attack in numbers, you naturally leave your midfield and defence vulnerable, therefore when you get chances you must take them. Porto did not and were punished.
The group couldn’t be tighter at the end of the night, with all 4 teams in Group G on three points, showing that in this section anybody can beat anybody else. Porto sit bottom on goal difference.
Vitoria SC 0-1 Frankfurt
Vitória SC played host to an Eintracht Frankfurt outfit with André Silva and Gonçalo Paciência up front.
The game marked the meeting of two sides who both lost on the opening Europa League matchday. The first quarter of the game went by relatively without incident with both sides feeling the other out. The game plans became evident as the match went on, Vitória allowed Frankfurt to have the ball and waited patiently to try and catch Frankfurt out of position and attempt to counterattack the German side. Vitória’s shape when Frankfurt had the ball was particularly impressive, the level of discipline and concentration necessary if you are to let your opponent have possession, is something to be admired.
After half an hour, Frankfurt had managed just one attempt on target but six minutes later all of Vitória’s hard work was undone by a set piece. An in-swinging corner for Frankfurt was met by France U21 international Evan N’Dicka to put the German visitors 1-0 up.
Vitória came out after half time much brighter and attacking, Evangelista pulled a brilliant ball into the 6-yard box which N’Dicka had to scramble to clear. Any sort of touch from a Vitória player would have been a certain goal. Just minutes later, it was Sacko down the right-hand side who put in a dangerous ball and won a corner for his side, which came to nothing.
Vitória were clearly trying to get at Frankfurt via the flanks, using their pacey wingers and marauding full-backs to gain an advantage out wide and put crosses into the box.
Gonçalo Paciência was replaced by Bas Dost on 68 minutes, much to his displeasure. The Frankfurt striker was clearly unhappy with his substitution and made his feelings to both manager and the bench clear.
The game then fell into a slumber for the last 20 minutes. Frankfurt defended resolutely and allowed Vitória very little time on the ball, quickly harassing the Vitória players and forcing them to give the ball away through cheap passes.
A Frankfurt chance from yet another set piece fell to André Silva who in truth, should have scored. The ball fell at the back post to Silva who couldn’t manage any real contact on the ball and the keeper managed to block it. Any real power on the strike would have been a guaranteed goal and would have killed the game. No less than 30 seconds later, Miguel Silva again denied what should have been a goal, a Kostić effort at the back post was kept out on the line by a fantastic save from Silva.
Vitória’s search for a point in the Europa League goes on. They defied expectation getting to the group stages so to see them qualify and then end up in a group as difficult as theirs is disappointing but it is great experience for Ivo’s men. Up next is a trip to North London to face Unai Emery’s Arsenal.
“I feel we could have done more, just like in our previous Europa League game,” said coach Ivo Vieira. “I think the team put in a fantastic display, they gave everything, put our ideas into practice and for periods we were the better team.
“The players fought, worked hard. I’m not satisfied with the result, but I’m pleased with what my players did. The ovation they got from the fans at the end says it all. I’m happy with the performance but I’m not satisfied with the result.”
Braga 2-2 Slovan Bratislava
Twice Braga went ahead and twice the northerners were pegged back to end the night with a disappointing draw against Slovan Bratislava.
Centre-back Bruno Viana was the figure of the match, scoring to put the Arsenalistas ahead, giving away a penalty to concede the equaliser, then scoring a late own goal to allow the visitors to escape with a share of the points.
The moment of the night, however, occurred just after the hour mark when 21-year-old Brazilian forward Wenderson Galeno showed what a talent he his with an outrageously gorgeous goal, sweetly striking an angled 20-yard curling effort into the top corner of the net with the Slovan goalkeeper left rooted to his spot.
“It’s a bitter result, of course,” said coach Sá Pinto. “We’ve had some unjust results and we did not deserve this outcome. Bratislava have some quality players and you have to give credit to the opposition too, but they did not deserve to take a point tonight. We’re disappointed and in a mini league you can’t drop points like this. But we’ll take it game by game.”
Late winner for Wolves, Fonseca’s Roma held, Dalot back for United
After losing their group opener 1-0 to SC Braga, Wolves got their campaign truly underway with a great 1-0 win over Besiktas.
In a match with very little incident, with just one shot on target all game for Wolves and three for Besiktas, Wolves were made to wait until the 3rd minute of stoppage time for the breakthrough. Rúben Neves lifted a lovely ball into the box, which was greeted by Wily Boly who finished calmly past the goalkeeper.
João Moutinho played 90 minutes and kept things ticking over in midfield, showcasing his great short and long passing range. Rui Patrício will be thrilled with his clean sheet against a tricky Besiktas side, Pedro Neto also started but struggled to get into the game, he was replaced at half time by Adama Traore.
Nuno’s men will be delighted with the three points in the first European competition involvement for the club for 39 years.
Paulo Fonseca’s AS Roma travelled to Austria to take on Wolfsberger AC. The match ended in a 1-1 draw and will be a tough one to take for the Italian side. After running out 4-0 winners last time in the Europa League against Basaksehir, Roma were full of optimism going into this one.
They took the lead through Leonardo Spinazzola but could not add a second. Shortly after half-time Wolfsberger equalised through Michael Liendl. Roma dominated the game in near enough every aspect but just could not break down the Austrian side. The draw takes Roma top of the group on 4 points and the Italian outfit face Borussia Monchengladbach next time out in the Europa League.
Dalot, Lopes and Bruma get run-outs
Diogo Dalot played 90 minutes in the uninspiring 0-0 between AZ Alkmaar and Manchester United. It was good to see Dalot back in the fold after injury and getting 90 minutes will be very beneficial for him. His United side currently sit joint-top of the group, level on points and goal difference with Partizan.
Rony Lopes played 72 minutes for Sevilla in their 1-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia. Lopes had a good game, looking bright throughout, completing 5 out of 6 of his dribble attempts. He was a constant danger down the right-hand side and the APOEL full-back’s had their work cut out all night, particularly when he linked up with Alejandro Pozo.
Another winger in action, albeit limited action, was PSV’s Bruma. His side faced Rosenborg BK. It was a special day today for Bruma as he was recalled into the national team fold by manager Fernando Santos following a string of good performances. Bruma only managed eight minutes though, coming on late in the game with the match already wrapped up at 4-1.
By Tom Kundert & Aaron Barton