Liverpool FC and Juventus eased through their first UEFA Europa League assignments of the season but other European heavyweights did not have things all their own way on a busy night of third qualifying round first-leg action.
Eleven weeks after leading Fulham FC to the UEFA Europa League final Roy Hodgson was back in the thick of the action at the Liverpool helm. The 62-year-old rested the majority of his FIFA World Cup contingent at FK Rabotnicki, but the Anfield club were still comfortable 2-0 winners after a goal in each half from David Ngog.
Juventus enjoyed similar success at Shamrock Rovers FC with Amauri also striking twice. Luigi Delneri, also taking charge of his first competitive fixture, was rewarded for fielding a near full-strength side inside three minutes when Amauri lifted the ball over Alan Mannus following a Diego assist. The Brazilian forward scored his second with 15 minutes remaining, rising highest to head in Marco Motta's cross. "We still have to improve but have already shown our main weapons: intensity and pace," said Delneri. "The victory is well deserved."
Elsewhere, Olympiacos FC came from behind to beat visiting Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC 2-1; Simon Vukčević got the only goal as Sporting Clube de Portugal won 1-0 at FC Nordsjælland; and VfB Stuttgart look well-placed to progress after a 3-2 victory at Molde FK, new signing Martin Harnik nodding in the decider for last season's UEFA Champions League contenders.
On a disappointing night for Turkey's high-profile challengers, Galatasaray AŞ surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home to OFK Beograd and Beşiktaş JK were held 1-1 at FC Viktoria Plzeň. A strike in each half from captain Arda Turan put Galatasaray in command at the Ali Sami Yen, but OFK turned the game around with late efforts from substitutes Milos Krstić (80) and Nenad Injac, the latter heading in Veseljko Trivunović's corner with four minutes left.
"It was a big surprise for us to equalise from 2-0 down," OFK coach Dejan Djurdjević said, "but Galatasaray are still favourites. Now I need to motivate my players again, and I honestly don't know how to do it. Maybe we can cause a second surprise in Belgrade." Beşiktaş had Matías Delgado's 44th-minute penalty to thank for a draw in Prague after David Limberský had put the Czech side ahead in only their second European tie.
There were mixed fortunes for the two teams making European debuts. Poland's Jagiellonia Białystok fell 2-1 at home to Aris Thessaloniki FC yet FC Sibir Novosibirsk had cause to celebrate: the most easterly club ever to feature in UEFA competition kicked off Thursday's action with a 1-0 home success against Apollon Limassol FC, courtesy of captain Aleksei Medvedev's 74th-minute strike. "The victory is the first for Sibir in Europe and I would like to congratulate the team and the city," said coach Igor Kriushenko.
The third round actually began on Tuesday when PFC CSKA Sofia prevailed 3-0 at home to Cliftonville FC, with a further 34 ties following on Thursday. Another club enjoying a first European campaign are Serbia's FK Spartak Zlatibor Voda who, after knocking out Luxembourg's FC Differdange 03 in the second qualifying round, achieved one of the upsets of the week with a 2-1 home victory over Ukrainian league leaders FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
Dnipro reached the UEFA Cup Round of 32 in 2004/05 and were twice UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finalists. They will need to draw on that experience if they are to advance after losing to a pair of Vladimir Torbica penalties, the second coming in the last minute. Other shocks included Azerbaijani outfit FK Qarabağ winning 1-0 at 12-times Polish champions Wisła Kraków, while former European Champion Clubs' Cup winners FK Crvena Zvezda succumbed 2-1 at home to ŠK Slovan Bratislava.
CS Marítimo were the biggest winners, notching a club record 8-2 at home to Bangor City FC – the Portuguese team scored four goals in five minutes towards the end of the second half. Three sides, meanwhile, hit five: IF Elfsborg winning 5-0 at home to FK Teteks, KRC Genk enjoying a 5-1 romp at FC International Turku, and Odense BK seeing off HŠK Zrinjski Mostar 5-3. The Bosnian-Herzegovinian club, however, gave their Danish hosts a scare by pulling back two goals through Mladen Žižović and Vlado Zadro, with his second of the night, in the final 25 minutes.
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