Europa League action round-up – Matchday 1 – September 17, 2009

Re-branded, re-packaged, with more refereeing assistants than ever before and even its own anthem, the inaugural Europa League began in earnest last night, plugging the Thursday night gap for those who cannot wait until the weekend for their football fix.

Fulham kicked off proceedings at CSKA Sofia and will be relieved to have come away with a point. The first shot on target took until the 37th minute to arrive, with Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale making simple work of Ivan Stoyanov’s effort. Jonathan Greening then missed an excellent opportunity to put the London side in front just before the referee called time on an unrelentingly dull first half. CSKA began the second half much improved, and after just fifteen minutes 26-year-old Brazilian Michel Platini opened the scoring. It took just three minutes for the Cottagers to draw level, Diomansy Kamara breaking free of the defence, rounding the keeper and coolly finishing from a difficult angle. Overall, the second half offered a vast improvement to the first, and Sofia almost won the game in the final minute with a late header from Yordan Todorov but the effort was blocked and the score remained at 1-1.

Everton fielded a near full-strength side as they welcomed AEK Athens to Goodison Park, and the Merseysiders had the result sewn up by half time. It took just 10 minutes for them to get off the mark with Joseph Yobo heading in from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s corner. The Toffees dominated the early exchanges and were two in front after 16 minutes, a central defender once again converting from a corner taken by the excellent Bilyaletdinov – this time Sylvain Distin scoring his first in an Everton shirt. Steven Pienaar sealed the points for Everton some eight minutes before half time with a low shot from outside the area. The second half was a mere formality, but the frustration clearly got to the Greek side, and Carlos Aranjo was dismissed after 54 minutes for a petulant kick at Distin. Jo made it four after 81 minutes, with an expert finish inside the box. In injury-time Louis Saha got himself sent off for raising his arm in the direction of Juanfran. It was a soft and needless dismissal and a slight blemish on what had been a fine Everton display.

Celtic opened their Europa League campaign with a trip to Israel to play Hapoel Tel Aviv and conspired to throw away a first-half lead. Georgios Samaras put in an excellent performance and Hapoel struggled to contain him in the first period. He hit the bar with a header after 11 minutes before scoring the opener with a low shot across the goalkeeper after 24 minutes, getting on the end of an excellent pass from Gary Caldwell. The Glasgow club held on for the majority of the game, but after 74 minutes the Israelis equalised with through Nemanja Vucicevic. With just over five minutes remaining, disaster struck for the Hoops when Maaran Lala won the game for Hapoel with a strike from close-range.

Full Results

Thursday 17 September, 2009

Group A
Ajax 0-0 FC Timisoara
Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Anderlecht
Group B
Lille 1-1 Valencia
Genoa 2-0 Slavia Prague
Group C
Hapoel Tel Aviv 2-1 CELTIC
Rapid Vienna 3-0 Hamburg
Group D
Hertha Berlin 1-1 FK Ventspils
Heerenveen 2-3 Sporting Lisbon
Group E
CSKA Sofia 1-1 FULHAM
Basel 2-0 Roma
Group F
Panathinaikos 1-3 Galatasaray
Sturm Graz 0-1 Dinamo Bucharest
Group G
Lazio 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Villareal 1-0 Levski Sofia
Group H
Steaua Bucharest 0-0 FC Sheriff Tiraspol
Fenerbahce 1-2 FC Twente
Group I
Benfica 2-0 BATE Borisov
EVERTON 4-0 AEK Athens
Group J
Club Brugge 1-4 Shakhtar Donetsk
Partisan Belgrade 2-3 Toulouse
Group K
Sparta Prague 2-2 PSV Eindhoven
CFR Cluj 2-0 FC Copenhagen
Group L
Athletico Bilbao 3-0 Austria Vienna
Nacional 2-3 Werder Bremen

Europa League action round-ups

Group stage Matchday 1 – September 17, 2009

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