Levante UD celebrated their debut in the UEFA Europa League group stage with a 1-0 home victory against Swedish champions Helsingborgs IF.
Former Spanish international Juanfran was the unlikely match winner, the left-back scoring his first goal since rejoining the club in 2010. His 40th-minute strike means Juan Ignacio Martínez's team have an early two-point lead in Group L following the 2-2 draw between FC Twente and Hannover 96 in the other match.
Levante did not concede in either leg of their play-off tie against Motherwell FC and their defence showed little sign of being breached during a first half in which the visitors were restricted to just two attempts on goal.
Chances were also at a premium at the other end until midfielder Ardian Gashi conceded a free-kick five minutes before the break. While Helsingborg's defence was regrouping, Míchel played it quickly to Juanfran and the 36-year-old defender fired in a left-footed shot from the corner of the penalty area. From an almost identical position, Juanlu Gómez nearly doubled the advantage moments later but his curling effort went just wide.
Helsingborg started the second half with greater purpose and Jere Uronen's free-kick brought a fine full-length save from Keylor Navas in the 55th minute. However, despite three attacking substitutions by coach Åge Hareide, the visitors came no closer to an equaliser. Levante, meanwhile, continued to threaten on the break and Ángel could have extended their lead but missed the target when clean through.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.