Galatasaray SK and Fenerbahçe SK marked their arrival in the UEFA Europa League with crushing victories as the third qualifying round kicked off but FC Basel 1893 and PSV Eindhoven found that reputation counted for little.
Frank Rijkaard's Galatasaray conceded first in their game at Maccabi Netanya FC, but that was soon forgotten as Hakan Balta, Harry Kewell Sabri Sarıoğlu and Milan Baroš struck to give them a 4-1 win. Back in Istanbul, Spanish striker Daniel Güiza got a hat-trick as Fenerbahçe demolished Budapest Honvéd FC, with Roberto Carlos and Alex also scoring in a 5-1 success.
In their first European game under new coach Fred Rutten, it took PSV until three minutes into second-half added time to make the breakthrough at home against PFC Cherno More Varna, with Dirk Marcellis on target, while Basel were 2-0 down at half-time in their game at KR Reykjavík before Scott Chipperfield and Federico Almerares restored the balance after the break.
The evening was to be less stressful for Hamburger SV, 4-0 winners in Denmark against Randers FC, and Fulham FC, who won 3-0 at FK Vėtra. FC Steaua Bucureşti can feel reasonably confident after a 3-0 defeat of Motherwell FC, as can LOSC Lille Métropole who beat FK Sevojno 2-0 in Serbia, while AS Roma's 3-1 triumph at home to KAA Gent leaves them well placed.
While big guns were firing elsewhere, some smaller sides were doing great work, not least FK Qarabağ. The Azerbaijani side eliminated Norwegian side Rosenborg BK in the last round, drawing 0-0 in Trondheim and then winning 1-0 in Baku, and they are on course for another exceptional result after Elvin Mammadov scored the only goal in their game at FC Honka Espoo.
Credit too to SK Sigma Olomouc – the Czech side who stormed to a 5-1 victory at Aberdeen FC – and FC Dinamo Tbilisi, who kicked off the evening's fixtures with a 2-0 victory against Belgrade titans FK Crvena Zvezda. Switzerland's BSC Young Boys, meanwhile, held on for a 1-0 success at Athletic Club Bilbao and Sweden's IF Elfsborg prevailed 2-1 in the late game at SC Braga.
All of those sides will look to build on their sterling starts as the round concludes next Thursday, although the deciding leg of Omonia AC's tie against SC Vaslui has been scheduled for Tuesday night. The draw for the play-offs takes place on Friday 7 August, with the victors in the next stage moving on to the group stage. For all of tonight's results, click here.
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