The UEFA Europa League returned to the group stage last night, as various teams from all around Europe, many with difficult-to-spell names, met in the continent’s secondary competition.
The focus was always likely to be on Arsenal, who were not in the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, and how they cope with playing on Thursday nights, as they hosted Germans Koln. The game was delayed for over an hour before it began, and the Gunners didn’t get off to a good start, Jhon Cordoba putting the visitors ahead with an audacious attempt after nine minutes. Arsene Wenger’s men didn’t reply until four minutes after halftime, Sead Kolasinac pouncing on a loose ball to fire home his first European goal for the club. Then in the 67th minute, Alexis Sanchez produced a goal of deluxe class with an outside-the-box curler, which left Koln goalkeeper Timo Horn watching in sheer helplessness, to put Arsenal in front. The Gunners sealed the win with eight minutes left, Hector Bellerin finishing off after Theo Walcott’s effort was parried at first by Horn, to ensure they began their campaign in Group H with a win.
In Group E, Everton got their campaign to a dismal start with a 3-0 loss away at Atalanta. They fell behind to Andrea Masiello’s 27th minute goal, before Alejandro Gomez doubled the lead for the hosts in the 41st, then Bryan Cristante capped things off for Gianpiero Gasperini’s team just three minutes after Gomez’s strike. That loss means Everton have lost their last three games in all competitions, without scoring.
Elsewhere, Andre Silva scored a hatrick as AC Milan hit Austria Wien for five in Group D, while Alassane Plea scored twice for Nice, who also scored five away, at Zulte-Waregem in Group K. Adil Rami’s 48th minute goal was enough for Marseille to see off Turks Konyaspor in Group I, while Hoffenheim began with a defeat at home to Braga in Group C, and Aleksandr Kokorin bagged a brace for Zenit St. Petersburg in their Group L win at Macedonians Vardar.
Group A: Slavia Prague 1-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv; Villarreal 3-1 Astana
Group B: Dynamo Kiev 3-1 Skenderbeu; BSC Young Boys 1-1 KF Partizan
Group C: Hoffenheim 1-2 Braga; Istanbul Basaksehir 0-0 Ludogorets
Group D: Austria Wien 1-5 Milan; Rijeka 1-2 AEK Athens
Group E: Apollon Limassol 1-1 Lyon; Atalanta 3-0 Everton
Group F: Kobenhavn 0-0 Lokomotiv Moscow; Zlin 0-0 Sheriff
Group G: Steaua Bucharest 2-0 Viktoria Plzen; Hapoel Be’er Sheva 2-1 Lugano
Group H: Crvena Zvezda 1-1 BATE Borisov; Arsenal 3–1 Koln
Group I: Marseille 1-0 Konyaspor; Vitoria Guimaraes 1-1 RB Salzburg
Group J: Hertha BSC 0-0 Athletic Bilbao; Zorya 0-2 Ostersunds
Group K: Vitesse 2-3 Lazio; Zulte-Waregem 1-5 Nice
Group L: Vardar 0-5 Zenit; Real Sociedad 4-0 Rosenborg