The biggest names in the UEFA Europa League play-offs had comfortable enough nights, but the excitement of the group stage remains in sight for some less likely lads when the ties conclude next week.
View all of Thursday's 30 play-off first leg results here.
VfB Stuttgart beat FC Dinamo Moskva in Wednesday's only game, while Thursday's fixtures went to plan for the heavyweights. Keisuke Honda struck as PFC CSKA Moskva won 1-0 at AIK Solna, two André Ayew goals helped Olympique de Marseille build a 2-1 first-leg lead at FC Sheriff, FC Internazionale Milano hit two without reply at SC Vaslui, and Liverpool FC left Heart of Midlothian FC with a 1-0 cushion, Andy Webster putting past his own goalkeeper with 12 minutes to go.
However, less illustrious sides rose to the occasion too, notably Norway's two representatives: Tromsø IL prevailed 3-2 at home to FK Partizan and Molde FK were 2-0 victors against sc Heerenveen. It was not an easy evening for the Dutch teams – Pablo Batalla scored two and set up the other as Bursaspor dispatched FC Twente 3-1, AZ Alkmaar went down 1-0 at FC Anji Makhachkala and Feyenoord had to scrap to salvage a 2-2 draw at home against AC Sparta Praha, having trailed 2-0 at the break.
PSV Eindhoven's 5-0 success at FK Zeta ended the night on a more optimistic note for the Netherlands contingent, yet if Montenegro's first representatives at this stage could not conjure a miracle, Azerbaijan's Neftçi PFK, Hungary's Videoton FC and Denmark's AC Horsens earned creditable draws with APOEL FC, Trabzonspor AŞ and Sporting Clube de Portugal respectively, and there is still hope for Georgia's FC Dila Gori, beaten 1-0 at CS Marítimo.
After FC Basel 1893 lost their UEFA Champions League play-off opener against CFR 1907 Cluj earlier in the week, Thursday was a happier time for Swiss clubs. FC Luzern won 2-1 at home to 2011/12 UEFA Champions League group stage contenders KRC Genk, while BSC Young Boys claimed a 3-0 victory at FC Midtjylland.
Last season's UEFA Europa League runners-up Athletic Club, meanwhile, recorded the most substantial scoreline – and their biggest European home win – by dismissing HJK Helsinki 6-0 in Bilbao. Aritz Aduriz and Markel Susaeta both scored a goal in each half, with Iñigo Perez and Andoni Iraola also chipping in.
FC Metalist Kharkiv and Hannover 96 were among the great entertainers in last term's competition, and the 2011/12 quarter-finalists took significant leaps towards a return to the group stage. The Ukrainian outfit established a 2-0 lead at FC Dinamo Bucureşti; Hannover flexed their goalscoring muscles in a 5-3 success at WKS Śląsk Wrocław.
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