The 2008/09 UEFA Women's Cup first qualifying round got started today with the likes of Valur Reykjavík, AC Sparta Praha, Zvezda-2005, FC PAOK and Levante UD making winning starts in the nine mini-tournaments.
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Russian champions Zvezda made a dream European debut with an 8-0 defeat of Lithuanian mini-tournament hosts Gintra Universitetas. Olesya Kurochkina struck five goals while Valentina Savchenkova, Natalia Barbashina and Vera Dyatel were also on target. Zvezda's Saturday opponents, Klaksvíkar Ítróttarfelag KÍ of the Faroe Islands, lost 3-1 to Hungary's 1. FC Femina. This pool, like the others, concludes on Tuesday.
AZ Alkmaar were held on their introduction to the tournament as Glasgow City LFC came from behind to draw 1-1 with the first women's Eredivisie winners. In hot conditions in Serbia, Dionne Demarteau put AZ ahead on 19 minutes but Danielle Stewart levelled just before the break. AZ coach Ed Engelkes said: "This feels like a loss, we have missed an opportunity." Hosts ZFK Mašinac Niš, who take on Glasgow on Matchday 2, stormed into the lead in the group with a 15-1 win against FC Narta Sofia. Tamara Jovanović struck on 14 and 16 minutes and went on to score five goals while both Jovana Sretenović and Danijela Trajković completed hat-tricks. Further goals came from Aricca Vitanza, Milena Pešić and substitutes Martija Nikolić and Milena Cvetković while Stefania Paduraru pulled one back for Narta in added time just before Sretenović's third.
Sparta reached the 2005/06 quarter-finals and made a useful start today with a 3-0 win against KVK Tienen, whose Belgian compatriots FCL Rapide Wezemaal made the last eight a year ago. However, Spain's Levante lead the way after winning their first European fixture for six years 9-0 against Macedonian hosts ŽFK Skiponjat, who now take on Sparta.
In one of the day's most anticipated matches, Norway's Røa IL made the most of home advantage to defeat Finnish side FC Honka Espoo 2-0. Marthe Braavold opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Sarah Huffmann struck late in the first half. Røa coach Geir Nordby said: "This was a very important victory for us. We knew that FC Honka are a strong team and there only three teams in our group so therefore I believe that this first game was a little bit of a key game for us in this short tournament. I'm pleased with my team and the result and I think that we where the better team today even though the team of Honka never gave up and really took the fight for 90 minutes. Our goal for the UEFA Women's Cup this year is to reach the quarter-finals so this was an important step for us." Honka must now bounce back against FC NSA Sofia (whose scheduled opponents FC Iveria withdrew) on Saturday, but to go through must both win by more than two goals and then hope Røa slip up against the same opposition on Tuesday.
Inspired by a hat-trick from one of Europe's leading strikers, Margrét Lára Vidarsdóttir, 2005/06 quarter-finalists Valur – who were unfortunate to miss out on the last eight a year ago – defeated Cardiff City LFC 8-1. Slovakian hosts FK Slovan Duslo Šaľa drew 1-1 with Maccabi Holon FC.
Alma KTZH of Kazakhstan got the better of Croatian hosts NK Osijek 3-1. Olga Aniskoutova's 20th-minute goal was canelled out by Katarina Kolar but with 17 minutes left Natalya Ivanova restored Alma's lead and Mariya Yalove then confirmed the win despite Begaim Kirgizbayeva's late red card. CFF Clujana defeated Glentoran Belfast United 6-0 with four Florentina Spanu goals.
Austrian hosts SV Neulengbach and Portugal's SU 1° Dezembro are off the winning starts. Neulengbach overcame Slovenia's ŽNK KRKA Novo Mesto 6-0 as two early goals from Brazilian Olympic silver-medallist Rosana goals were added to before the break by a Nina Burger hat-trick and a Maria Gstöttner strike. There was also a first-half treble for 1° Dezembro's Carlo Couta in their 8-0 victory against Cypriot newcomers Vamos Idaliou. Dolores Silva was also on target before the break, and after half-time Couta, Tania Pinto, Atanaska Kasabova and Patricia Gouveia found the target.
Ukraine's WFC Naftokhimik performed admirably on their competition bow as Aivi Luik's 61st-minute goal secured victory against Polish home side KŚ AZS Wrocław. There was a less happy debut for FC Levadia Tallinn, beaten 3-0 by FC PAOK. Dimitra Padeliadou struck on 27 and 37 minutes, either side of a Kyriaki Kynossidou goal just past the half-hour. PAOK and Naftokhimik meet on Saturday in a potential decider.
Another team appearing in Europe for the first time, FC Zürich Frauen, picked up a point with a 1-1 draw against WFC Universitet Vitebsk of Belarus. Alena Buzinova's 14th-minute goal was cancelled out after the break by Venessa Bernauer. Hosts ŽNK SFK 2000 Sarajevo were also held in a goalless game against Irish champions Galway LFC.