PARIS: Arsenal and Manchester United both relied on a teenager to get their Europa League campaigns off to a winning start on Thursday.
Last season’s runners-up Arsenal saw 18-year-old winger Bukayo Saka score a goal and set up the other two in a 3-0 away victory over 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt.
And 17-year-old Mason Greenwood became United’s youngest ever scorer in European competition when he netted the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over FC Astana at Old Trafford.
Another Premier League club, Wolverhampton Wanderers extended their winless streak by losing 1-0 to Braga at Molineux.
Sevilla, the most successful team in Europe’s second-tier competition, opened with a 3-0 victory at Qarabag while Kevin Bua struck twice to lead FC Basel to a 5-0 win over FC Krasnodar and Rangers got the better of Feyenoord.
In a major upset, competition newcomers Wolfsberg FC of Austria routed Borussia Monchengladbach 4-0 away.
On a night which featured five British clubs in action, Unai Emery’s much-changed Arsenal side enjoyed the best result of all.
Emery started a trio of academy graduates, with Emile Smith Rowe, Saka and Joe Willock forming a youthful attack together with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
It was the 20-year old Willock who opened the scoring in the 38th with a deflected right-foot shot from inside the area, which bounced off the crossbar and into the net.
Frankfurt chased an equaliser before midfielder Dominik Kohr was ejected 11 minutes from time after picking his second yellow card for a tackle on Saka.
The 18-year-old Saka, who like Smith Rowe, was making his first start of the season doubled the lead with a precise left-footer from outside the area in the 85th before setting up Aubameyang to finish it off couple minutes later to secure all three points for Arsenal in the Group ‘F’ clash in Germany.
“Everybody can be happy and continuing in this competition is important, so it was good to get a good win, especially away from home,” said Emery.
It was Frankfurt’s first loss in Europe in 16 games stretching back to 2006, and the win put Arsenal top of the group ahead of Standard Liege, who beat Vitoria Guimaraes of Portugal 2-0 at home.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s youth also impressed but the manager had to wait till the 73rd minute for Greenwood to score with a shot between the legs of Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric. Two 19-year-olds, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, also started for United.
Rarely used midfielder Fred was also given his first start of the season and hit the bar three minutes into the Group ‘L’ game.
“You could see some of our lads needed games but it’s pleasing we got the three points,” Solskjaer said.
Partizan Belgrade, hit with a two-match stadium ban by UEFA because of racist actions by supporters, were allowed to fill the stands with over 20,000 children as they took on Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in the group’s other game.
The youngsters saw Israeli midfielder Bebras Natcho score twice, including a penalty, in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Wolves, making their first appearance in Europe since a 1980-81 UEFA Cup campaign, were unable to make it three wins out of three for Premier League clubs as they slumped to a home defeat against Braga.
Ricardo Horta’s second-half goal gave the Portuguese club all three points in Group ‘K’ and it was a disappointing night for a Wolves team who are still without a win in the Premier League this season.
In the same group Slovan Bratislava were 4-2 winners at home to Besiktas, who welcome Wolves to Istanbul in a fortnight.
Sevilla, who won the Europa League three years running from 2014 to 2016, beat Qarabag in Group ‘A’ with Javier Hernandez breaking the deadlock in Baku in the 62nd minute with a curling free kick. Forward Munir El Haddadi and Oliver Torres added one apiece.
The group’s other game was the highest-scoring one of the night as APOEL Nicosia came back from two down to lead 3-2 against Dudelange of Luxembourg, but goals by Dominik Stolz and Danel Sinani gave the visitors a 4-3 win.
In front of a tiny band of travelling fans on their debut in the group stage Wolfsberg stunned Gladbach in Group ‘J’, handing the two-time former UEFA Cup winners their heaviest ever home defeat in Europe. In the same group Roma eased past Istanbul Basaksehir 4-0.
In Group ‘E’, Romanian champion CFR Cluj came from a goal down to shock Lazio 2-1. Ciprian Deac equalised against the run of play from the spot after defender Bastos gave Italy’s cup winners the lead, before Billel Omrani scored the winner.
Celtic battled to a 1-1 draw with Rennes in France in a fiery encounter, with Ryan Christie’s second-half penalty cancelling out M’Baye Niang’s 38th-minute spot-kick for the hosts before the visitors had Vakoun Issouf Bayo sent off at the death.
“I asked for a reaction from the players at half-time and we certainly got that and we thoroughly merited the point if not the three points,” said Celtic manager Neil Lennon of his team’s fightback.
It was an emotional night in Glasgow as Rangers, managed by Steven Gerrard, faced Feyenoord, a Dutch side where another former star Jaap Stam is in charge, after the death on Wednesday of their former player Dutchman Fernando Ricksen at the age of 43.
Ricksen, who died from motor neuron disease, signed for Rangers from AZ Alkmaar in 2000 and went on to become a revered figure at the club, winning two league titles and two Scottish Cup trophies during a six-year spell at the club.
Fans unfurled banners celebrating Ricksen before Sheyi Ojo scored the only goal of the game in the first half to give Rangers a 1-0 win in their Group ‘G’ clash.
It is an ideal start for Rangers in a tough group and their next match will be away in Switzerland against Young Boys, who lost 2-1 at 2011 Europa League champions Porto on Thursday with Tiquinho netting twice for the hosts.
The biggest winners on the night were Basel as they got off to the perfect start in Group ‘C’ by hammering visiting Krasnodar, while Getafe beat Trabzonspor 1-0.
PSV Eindhoven opened up Group ‘D’ with a 3-2 victory against Sporting Lisbon while Norwegians Rosenborg lost 1-0 at Austrian newcomers LASK Linz. Dynamo Kiev and FC Copenhagen got 1-0 home wins over Malmo and Lugano respectively in Group ‘B’.
Bulgarian side Ludogorets enjoyed a surprisingly easy win with the 5-1 thrashing of visitors CSKA Moscow in Group ‘H’, and Espanyol drew 1-1 with Hungary’s Ferencvaros in a game of two teams making their Europa League debut.
Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019