There are always some shocks in the Europa League and that was no different in this round of fixtures. Galatasaray would be considered the biggest side in the tournament at this stage by most, however it seems that their place in the competition is in jeopardy after a 2-0 loss at the hands of Ostersunds. It was Saman Ghoddos who opened the scoring for the Swedes, but the killer blow that makes life more difficult for Galatasaray was a 92nd-minute strike from Englishman Jamie Hopcutt, who had actually come through the academy of York City. Galatasaray do have the home advantage in the second leg, but they have given themselves an uphill battle with this result.
Finland’s HJK lost in the first leg of the last round and have done so again. This time it was individual brilliance from Besart Ibraimi who plays for Shkendija of Macedonia that was the cause. The Macedonian who has 15 caps for his country scored a hat trick to cancel out Ousman Jallow’s first half strike, with the first of those coming from the penalty spot just before half time. HJK only went into the second leg against Connah’s Quay Nomads with a one goal deficit, but they will have to get two goals back this time, as they lost 3-1.
There was an all Scandinavian match up when Brondby from Denmark played Finnish side VPS. It was a Finn who opened the scoring, but to the disappointment of VPS, it was Brondby striker Teemu Pukki. The man who has 54 caps for Finland also set up the only other goal of the game, as Kasper Fisker put the Danes 2-0 ahead.
None of the teams from the home nations recorded a win in this round of fixtures despite all of them playing at home, however, none of them are out of the running by any means. Aberdeen, who entered the competition in this round recorded a 1-1 draw in their first match. Ryan Christie opened the scoring after 17 minutes for the Dons with their goalkeeper Joe Lewis recording the assist. However, Siroki Brijeg equalised through a Stipo Markovic strike to frustrate Aberdeen. Cork City had a very tough tie against AEK Larnaca and despite them digging in, they go into the second leg 1-0 down after Truyols put the Cypriots ahead. The highest scoring of the home nations’ games was Shamrock Rovers’ match against Mlada Boleslav of the Czech Republic. Graham Burke scored twice for the Irish side, but two goals from Golgol Mebrahtu and a Jan Chramosta strike puts the Czechs in pole position ahead of the second leg.
Norwegian side Haugesund really impressed in the first leg of the last round winning 7-0 against Coleraine. They’ve had another great result, as they have given themselves a one goal advantage going into the second leg after beating Lech Poznan 3-2. Despite this, there will be part of them that is disappointed with the result, as they had gone 3-0 up before Radoslaw Majewski scored and Darko Jevtic converted a penalty in the 93rd minute to give the Polish side a chance.
In the first qualifying round there had been some massive margins between the two teams, however, this time around the biggest win was 3-0. Hungarian side Videoton did this against Kalju from Estonia through a Mate Patkai goal and two Marko Skepovic penalties. Cypriot side Apollon Limassol also did so with three first half goals against Zaria Balti of Moldova.
The highest scoring game of this round of fixtures came in Hungary, where Ferencvaros lost 4-2 to Midtjylland. The home side were actually 2-0 up, but Julian Koch gave away a penalty in the first minute of added time in the first half and was given a straight red. Jacob Poulsen stepped up to put the ball away and went on to get a hat trick, as well as assisting his side’s fourth goal. Poulsen, who is Midtjylland’s captain, has now been directly involved in more goals than anyone else in the competition, with four goals and four assists.
Despite this Red Star Belgrade striker Richmond Boakye is still the leading goal scorer in the competition with five goals to his name after bagging once against Irtysh Pavlodar of Kazakhstan. However, a 93rd-minute penalty from Pavlodar defender Stefan Zivkovic meant that this game ended in a 1-1 draw.
With Everton going into the Europa League in the next round, their supporters will be keeping a keen eye on Ruzomborek vs Brann to see whether they’ll be travelling to Slovakia or Norway for their first Europa League outing of the season. It is the Norwegians who will go into the second leg of this tie with the advantage, as Brann currently lead 1-0 and will also have the home advantage.
Five matches to watch out for in the second leg are Jagiellonia Bialystok (1-1) Gabala, Mlada Boleslav (3-2) Shamrock Rovers, Siroki Brijeg (1-1) Aberdeen, Lech Poznan (2-3) Haugesund and Galatasaray (0-2) Ostersunds.