The UEFA Europa League third qualifying round saw the first Spanish, Italian and German sides kick a ball in anger in this season's UEFA club competitions, but it was not to be an easy night for any of the newcomers.
Winners in 2010, Club Atlético de Madrid took some solace on the night that it was confirmed that their star striker Sergio Agüero had signed for Manchester City FC with a 2-1 victory at home against Strømsgodset IF, but both US Città di Palermo and 1. FSV Mainz 05 had to settle for draws at home against unfancied opponents, and hope that the return fixtures would bring better luck.
As well as selling Agüero, Atlético are also reeling from the news that Brazilian striker Diego Costa will be out of action for six months with a knee injury, so it was a relief of sorts for coach Gregorio Manzano that José Antonio Reyes has not forgotten where the goal is. He scored twice before Miranda's dismissal blunted Atlético's edge, with Øyvind Storflor striking back for the visitors.
Palermo could feel mightily relieved to come away with a 2-2 draw against modest FC Thun. Benjamin Lüthi opened the scoring for the Swiss side, and while Josip Iličić struck back for the Rosanero, Marc Schneider restored the visitors' advantage. In the end, it took a 92nd-minute free-kick from substitute Fabrizio Miccoli to spare the blushes of coach Stefano Pioli.
Mainz upset the established order to finish fifth in Germany last season, but the Carnival Club failed to make a grand entrance on to the European stage. Thomas Tuchel's side led through Niko Bungert's 31st-minute goal at home against CS Gaz Metan Mediaş, but the side from the Romanian town famous for methane gas exploded back into the tie with Taher Bawab's leveller on the hour.
AEK Larnaca FC won 8-0 at Floriana FC in the second qualifying round first leg, but trumped that result with a 3-0 triumph against Czech side FK Mladá Boleslav. Omonia AC also had a splendid night, beating Dutch side ADO Den Haag by the same margin, but Anorthosis Famagusta FC's 2-0 loss at home against FK Rabotnicki took some of the gloss off a mighty night for Cypriot football.
AC Sparta Praha can start to think about the play-offs, with Leony Kweuke hitting a hat-trick in a 5-0 win against FK Sarajevo. Stade Rennais FC also scored five at FK Metalurgi Rustavi, and missed a penalty to boot, though the mood on their long flight back from Georgia may be somewhat dampened by the fact that they also conceded twice against opponents who played for 62 minutes with ten men.
RNK Split can take credit after holding Fulham FC to a 0-0 draw in Croatia. Oddly, their city rivals HNK Hajduk Split were also paired with English opponents, and Krassimir Balakov's side can feel moderately pleased too after heading home trailing 1-0 following Stoke City FC's first European fixture in 37 years; Jonathan Walters scored the only goal after three minutes.
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