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Europa League first rewards Zapater toil

Alberto Zapater scored the first goal of the UEFA Europa League group stage four minutes into Genoa CFC's 2-0 victory against SK Slavia Praha, crediting the feat to "work, work and more work".

Alberto Zapater (left) scored the first goal in the new UEFA Europa League group stage
Alberto Zapater (left) scored the first goal in the new UEFA Europa League group stage ©Getty Images

It took only four minutes for Alberto Zapater to inscribe his name in the UEFA Europa League annals as the Spanish midfielder scored the first goal of the group stage with a wonderful free-kick which set Genoa CFC on their way to a 2-0 victory against SK Slavia Praha. "My secret? Work, work and more work," he told uefa.com after the game.

Winning start
The 24-year-old joined Genoa from Real Zaragoza in the summer and his latest strike is evidence that he has settled in well. "This goal means a lot to me," he said. "Things could not be going better: we are winning games, playing well, the fans are happy and I also scored today. I didn't know it was the first goal in the Europa League group stage, but I knew it was an important goal for us."

Hardworking player
He had already showed his ability from free-kicks, scoring on his Serie A debut against AS Roma, but insisted it was hard graft rather than natural ability which was the key to his successes: "I'm not one of those players who are born champions so my only secret is work, work and more work. I know I have scored twice with free-kicks but we might wait five months to see another. Football is like that."

Winning performance
With a full compliment of nine points after three league games, Gian Piero Gasperini's side have made a similarly bright start in Europe. "It was another great performance by the whole team," Zapater said. "It was important to win because it was a tough game for us but we also played well and we have to continue like this."

Infectious enthusiasm
Zapater was captain at Zaragoza but has had no trouble adapting to a different role with his new club. "The way this team play is contagious," he said. "Players like Giuseppe Sculli, Marco Rossi and Omar Milanetto have been here for many years and are always ready to help the new players to understand Genoa's game and make everything much easier for us."

Serie A entertainers
For many neutrals, Genoa play the most entertaining football in Italy and Zapater certainly enjoys it. "I have been feeling great since the first day I arrived," he said. "I could not imagine that I would be feeling this way so soon after changing team. I'm very happy here but the past doesn't count for much in football. The only thing I'm focusing on is the next game."