PARIS: An emotional Alvaro Morata snapped his recent goal drought with the only goal of the game on Thursday as Chelsea recorded their second straight 1-0 victory in the Europa League, against plucky Hungarian side Vidi.
Elsewhere, substitute Patrick Cutrone netted twice in nine minutes to lift AC Milan to a 3-1 comeback triumph at home to Greece’s Olympiakos Piraeus and teenage forward Emile Smith Rowe scored his first senior goal as Arsenal made the most of their longest-ever trip for a European game by winning 3-0 at Qarabag in Azerbaijan but Sevilla suffered a shock defeat by Russians Krasnodar.
Like Chelsea, Milan and Arsenal, last year’s semi-finalists RB Salzburg, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Zurich, Sporting Lisbon, Eintracht Frankfurt, Krasnodar and Dinamo Zagreb also made it two victories from two group games.
Vidi, previously known as Videoton, reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 1985 and made life difficult for Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea with a disciplined defensive display.
Spain striker Morata, without a goal since August 18, wasted a terrific chance in the first half at Stamford Bridge but atoned with a sharp finish on 70 minutes when he swept the ball in from close range following a header from Brazil playmaker Willian, to earn Chelsea maximum points against Vidi.
Substitute Ross Barkley also headed against the crossbar, while Kepa Arrizabalaga — the world’s most expensive goalkeeper — produced an excellent save to deny Istvan Kovacs a late equaliser.
“If after a goal he wants to cry, I hope to see him cry very often,” Sarri said of Morata, who scored for just the second time in 10 outings this season. “It’s very important for him to score. I think it’s very important for him to play a very good match. He played a very good match.”
Chelsea head Group ‘L’ with a maximum six points with PAOK — 4-1 winners over BATE Borisov — level on three points alongside the Belarusian champions.
Seven-time European champions Milan trailed to a Miguel Angel Guerrero goal, in the 14th minute with a deflected header, at the San Siro but a late flurry of goals ensured victory for Gennaro Gattuso’s side.
Rodriguez crossed for Cutrone to head the equaliser with 20 minutes to go. Argentine Gonzalo Higuain’s low shot put the Italian club 2-1 up and Cutrone tapped in his second goal from close range in the 79th.
Milan lead Group ‘F’ with six points, two ahead of Real Betis, who scored three goals in the second half to ease past Luxembourg newcomers Dudelange 3-0.
ARSENAL ROUT QARABAG
In Baku, Sokratis Papastathopoulos bundled in a Nacho Monreal header on four minutes, with 18-year-old Smith Rowe, a product of the Arsenal’s academy, and French youngster Matteo Guendouzi also scoring their first goals for the club as a mainly second-string Gunners maintained their winning start in the competition.
Arsenal extended their winning run to eight matches and lead Sporting on goal difference at the top of Group ‘E’, after the Portuguese side snatched a 2-1 win in Ukraine with two late goals against Vorskla Poltava.
“It was a difficult game. Every match is important for us. We played an away game against a strong opponent,” said Arsenal boss Unai Emery.
“Qarabag is an ambitious team and we had to try a lot today. However, in the end, the desired result was achieved.”
Arsenal’s Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan did not make the trip to Azerbaijan due to diplomatic tensions between the country and his homeland.
Mkhitaryan also skipped a trip to Azerbaijan three years ago when he was playing for Borussia Dortmund, with the German club citing security concerns.
Emery said Mkhitaryan “cannot travel here”. It’s not clear what will happen if the team reaches the final in Baku.
Rangers, managed by former England midfielder Steven Gerrard, overcame Rapid Vienna 3-1 at Ibrox as Alfredo Morelos netted twice and James Tavernier scored from the spot after the hosts fell behind to a Veton Berisha effort.
Also in Group ‘G’, Santi Cazorla scored his first goal in over two years as he tucked away a 96th-minute penalty to snatch a 3-3 draw for Villarreal away to Spartak Moscow. The Russians were set for three points after Paraguayan Lorenzo Melgarejo drove home in the 85th minute.
Rangers’ Old Firm rivals Celtic slumped to a 3-1 defeat against Salzburg despite taking the lead in Austria.
Odsonne Edouard’s cool finish put Celtic in front in the second minute but Munas Dabbur and Takumi Minamino scored after the break. Celtic’s James Forrest was sent off after a foul in the area and Dabbur slotted home the resulting penalty to put the game beyond Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Salzburg lead the way in Group ‘B’ on six points with Celtic tied in second place on three with RB Leipzig, who won 3-1 at Rosenborg.
Sevilla, the most successful club in Europa League history, went down 2-1 at Krasnodar in Group ‘J’. The five-time winners went ahead after Charles Kabore’s own goal but the Russians rallied thanks to Mauricio Pereyra and Tornike Okriashvili.
Lazio’s Dusan Basta and Joaquin Correa were sent off in their team’s 4-1 defeat at Eintracht.
Basta received a second yellow card at the end of the first half, while Correa was dismissed for a challenge on Jonathan de Guzman in the 58th minute.
Danny da Costa struck in the fourth minute and again in stoppage time for the Bundesliga outfit and Luka Jovic and Filip Kostic were also on target, with Marco Parolo replying for Lazio.
In the other Group ‘H’ game, last season’s runners-up Olympique de Marseille threw away a two-goal lead in Cyprus and were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw against Apollon Limassol.
Goals by Dimitri Payet and Luiz Gustavo put the French club in control, but Sasa Markovic pulled one back before Emilio Zelaya fired home in stoppage time.
Eintracht top the group with six points, three more than Lazio.
Substitute Lucas Alario scored a brace for Leverkusen in their 4-2 win over Cypriot side AEK Larnaca. Leverkusen are tied atop Group ‘A’ on six points with Zurich, who edged Ludogorets Razgard 1-0.
Dinamo Zagreb upset hosts Anderlecht 2-0 to dominate Group ‘D’ with six points while newcomers Sarpsborg beat Genk 3-1 in Group ‘I’ to claim their first Europa League victory.
Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2018