Europa League matchday one talking points
Friday, 18 September 2015
UEFA.com reporters dissect UEFA Europa League matchday one, including Bordeaux's fighting spirit, Celtic's mixed feelings and Monaco's tactical conundrum.
Article top media content
New kids on the blocks
While the three UEFA Champions League newcomers mustered a solitary point between them this week, there was a more creditable tally of nine points for the eight clubs making UEFA Europa League group stage debuts on Thursday. Two of them were victorious, as Sion beat Rubin Kazan 2-1 and Midtjylland defeated Legia Warszawa 1-0.
Monaco drew 1-1 at Anderlecht, Qäbälä drew 0-0 with PAOK, while it was also goalless for Belenenses at Lech Poznań. Three suffered losses to experienced opposition, Groningen slumping 3-0 against visitors Marseille, Albania's first group entrants Skënderbeu going down 1-0 at home to Beşiktaş and, despite leading at half-time in their maiden European fixture, Augsburg falling 3-1 at Athletic Club.
Bordeaux's fighting spirit
Willy Sagnol was not the sort of player to give up without a struggle, and his Bordeaux players look to be developing a similar tenacity. Jussiê's 81st-minute strike secured the Ligue 1 club a deserved 1-1 Group B draw with Liverpool, which was in perfect keeping with their season so far – six of their 13 goals in all competitions having come in the final quarter of an hour.
Most of those strikes have been crucial too, including Enzo Crivelli's play-off effort against Kairat Almaty which sealed Bordeaux's group stage place. "It shows the strength of the spirit in this squad, even if you also need physical qualities to keep coming back," said Sagnol. "Still, we'd like to go ahead as well."
Celtic's mixed feelings
You would think Celtic will have been happy returning to Glasgow from Ajax with a point, yet midfield lynchpin Nir Bitton had initially set his sights higher. "We wanted to win here, especially as having been 2-1 ahead we felt we could, but considering the way things went 2-2 was also OK," he said.
Ronny Deila's last two substitutions, swapping two midfielders – James Forrest and Kris Commons – for Tyler Blackett and Saidy Janko, both defenders, were always likely to encourage Ajax to pound the Celtic goal with wave after wave of attack. But, as they say, the ends justify the means. The Scottish champions left Amsterdam pummelled yet unbeaten, and very much in control of their destiny in Group A.
Monaco finding right formula
Anthony Martial's transfer to Manchester United was the most high-profile departure from Monaco of an exceptionally busy summer window. There was plenty of movement into the club as well as out, and coach Leonardo Jardim now has a squad stacked with forward options. Four attack-minded players were on the bench at Anderlecht and one of them, Lacina Traoré, scored the equaliser in the 1-1 Group J draw.
Jardim must decide whether 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 he used in Belgium is the way to get the most out of his men. Bernardo Silva said: "We have a lot of new players that have amazing talent. In time we will get our best performances."
Will Fenerbahçe live up to expectations?
Boasting some of the most biggest names in the competition, Fenerbahçe were touted as one of the UEFA Europa League heavyweights this season. Their Group A opener against Molde could have been the perfect stage for Robin van Persie or Nani to shine – even with Diego and Simon Kjær injured – but things did not go as coach Vítor Pereira planned as the Norwegian visitors won 3-1.
Fener tried to take the game by storm, creating some initial chances, but a patient and compact Molde side stood firm and later took their opportunities, thus breaking the Yellow Canaries' will. It is too early to write off the Turkish hopefuls, yet with tough trips to Ajax, Celtic and Molde in store, Fenerbahçe will really need their stars to step up.
Çetin Cem Yılmaz
Dortmund fans love European football
Borussia Dortmund may not be in the UEFA Champions League this term but their supporters have embraced this competition. They have played three home matches so far – against Austria's Wolfsberg in the third qualifying round, Odd of Norway in the play-offs and Krasnodar on Thursday in Group C – and each fixture has set an attendance record for that particular round.
There were 55,200 at the BVB Stadion Dortmund to see the hosts score in added time of each half to win 2-1 and achieve a new mark for the group stage previously held by Schalke 04 – when 53,123 witnessed the visit of Steaua Bucureşti in 2011/12. That means that in Dortmund's three European home games this season, a total of 184,590 fans have seen BVB score 14 goals in a trio of victories.