With the Europa League starting up again for another year there were some big shocks which will make the second leg of the ties very interesting and some big score lines which have realistically put their tie to bed.
Of all 50 matches that were played in the first leg of the Europa League First Qualifying Round, there were only four draws. These matches were KR Reykjavik (Ice) vs SJK (Fin), Shakhtyor Soligorsk (Blr) vs Suduva (Ltu), Ventspils (Lat) vs Valur (Ice) and Klaksvik (Fai) vs AIK Stockholm (Swe), with all of these ending 0-0. It was a shock for many that AIK, weren’t able to put themselves into the lead. Although with the second leg at home they will still be confident of securing their place in the next round.
Andrey Arshavin’s Kairat Almaty had a field day, as two goals from the former Arsenal man, Gerard Gohou and Ivo Ilicevic handed the side from Kazakhstan a 6-0 win over Atlantas of Lithuania. Regarding other large score lines the Cypriots AEK Larnaca overcame Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar 5-0, Sweden’s Norkopping beat Prishtina of Kosovo 5-0 and the Danish side Midtjylland won 6-1 against Northern Irish outfit Derry City.
However, these weren’t the biggest score lines of the night, as the Norwegian outfit Haugesund put seven past Northern Ireland’s Coleraine without reply. There was not a single player who got more than one goal for Haugesund, but the goals accumulated has surely sent Coleraine out of the competition.
Outside of the two aforementioned matches mentioned there was a mixed bag of results for Britain and Ireland. Out of all of the teams from the home nations it is arguably Cork City who go into the second leg in the best position. They will be hosting Levadia of Estonia with a 2-0 lead following on from the first leg thanks to goals from Garry Buckley and Steven Beattie. Levadia centre back Luc Tabi Manga was sent off after two bookable offences, which means he will be unavailable for the second leg.
Crusaders will be happy after their first leg against FK Liepaja, as they take a 3-1 lead to Latvia, while Shamrock Rovers managed to get a 1-0 win in Iceland against Stjarnan to take back to the Tallaght Stadium.
However, the biggest result for the British and Irish sides and arguably the biggest shock in the competition came in Wales. This was Connah’s Quay Nomads recording a 1-0 win over HJK Helsinki of Finland. Despite HJK having recently lost their top scorer Alfredo Morelos to Rangers, there won’t be many who expected this result and it is being considered amongst the Welsh Premier League’s biggest ever wins in Europe. The goal came when Nathan Woolfe’s cross wasn’t dealt with as it bounced through the box and went in off the far post without getting a touch from anybody.
Not all of the Brits had a positive result though. Bangor City lost 1-0 to Danish side Lyngby and Vaduz of Liechtenstein overcame Bala Town 2-1. The team who will be most disappointed though is St. Johnstone, who lost 2-1 at home to Lithuanians Trakai. These sides have it all to do but the opposition of Bangor City and St. Johnstone both had a man sent off, which means they won’t be available, possibly helping the Brits in the second leg.
The majority of the larger sides at this stage did what was expected of them, as Polish giants Lech Poznan beat Pelister of Macedonia 4-0, Inter Baku will be taking a 3-0 lead against the Serbians Mladost back to Azerbaijan. As well as this Maccabi Tel Aviv of Israel beating Albanian side Tirana 2-0 and Belarusians Dinamo Minsk beating Runavik of the Faroe Islands 2-1. Also, Jagiellonia Bialystok beat Dinamo Batumi of Georgia 1-0 whilst Hungarian giants Ferencvaros beat Jelgava 2-0.
The biggest turn around of the first leg goes to Beitar Jerusalem who found themselves 3-1 down against Vasas of Hungary in the 87th minute. However, former West Ham and Liverpool star Yossi Benayoun scored in the 88th minute and assisted in the 91st minute, before Erik Sabo scored in the 92nd minute to put the Israeli side 4-3 up going into the second leg.
There were two matches played yesterday with the first of those being Rangers vs Progres Niedercorn of Luxembourg. Rangers announced their return to European football with a 1-0 win in the first leg. This came through Kenny Miller goal as a result of some quick thinking by Niko Kranjcar from a free kick on the edge of the box. However, there was a turnaround in the second leg when Rangers travelled to Luxembourg. Niedercorn scored two goals within a 10 minute period in the second half through strikes from Emmanuel Francoise and Sebastien Thill, meaning that Rangers are now out of the competition at the first hurdle.
The second tie was Balzan of Malta and Hungarian side Videoton. The Hungarians had won the first leg 2-0. When Bojan Kaljevic opened the scoring for Balzan in the third minute it seemed that Videoton may have been in for a scare. However two quick fire goals from Krisztian Geresi and Marko Scepovic put Videoton back in the driving seat. The match ended in a 3-3 draw, meaning that Videoton went through, winning 5-3 on aggregate.
In terms of the individual goal scoring charts there are 23 players level with two goals. However, Videoton‘s Marko Scepovic leads the way with two assists to add to his two goals, although he has played an extra match.