LONDON: Manchester United’s scoring woes were on display again as the English powerhouses laboured to a 0-0 draw at AZ Alkmaar in another poor display in the Europa League on Thursday. Arsenal had no such problems, with teenage forward Gabriel Martinelli scoring twice in a 4-0 win over Standard Liege.
United have not scored more than one goal in any of their last eight matches in all competitions and the latest setback will only increase the pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to get the team’s attack firing again.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery may have unearthed a real gem in Martinelli, though, as the Brazilian has now scored four goals in two starts for the club. Against Liege, he netted twice within two minutes early in the first half and set up another goal for Dani Ceballos in the second.
In Luxembourg, the Group ‘A’ game between Dudelange and Azerbaijani club Qarabag had to be suspended in the first half for after a drone flew over the pitch carrying what looked an Armenian flag. The drone incensed Qarabag players, who tried to hit it with the ball.
Azerbaijan and Armenia are in a territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Play was suspended for about 15 minutes with Qarabag leading 2-0, but play later resumed, with Qarabag winning 4-1.
There was a notable 2-0 win for Feyenoord over Porto in a clash of former European champions while Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers won 1-0 at Besiktas on a hectic night of Europa League action that produced a full house of Spanish victories on Thursday.
Sevilla beat APOEL Nicosia 1-0, Espanyol were 2-0 winners away to CSKA Moscow and Getafe won 2-1 in Krasnodar.
Three-time European champions United played out a dour draw away to Alkmaar — a Group ‘L’ match played in The Hague, 70 miles from Alkmaar, on an artificial pitch —failing to muster a single shot on target.
United have four points alongside Partizan Belgrade who enjoyed a 2-1 victory in Astana.
“The conditions were tough but I thought we did very well. It puts us in a good position,” said Solskjaer. “If you get your draws away from home and win the home games, you’ll be fine.”
Arsenal, runners-up to Chelsea last year, opened their Group ‘F’ campaign with an impressive 3-0 win in Frankfurt and found goals easy to come by again as they racked up a sixth successive home win in Europe.
Martinelli headed home Kieran Tierney’s cross 14 minutes into the game before hitting the net from inside the area two minutes later after collecting a pass from another teenager, Reiss Nelson.
Joe Willock fired in a third for a youthful Arsenal on 22 minutes and Martinelli set up Dani Ceballos on the hour to wrap up another comfortable win in Europe as Unai Emery’s side moved on to six points, three points clear of both Standard and Eintracht Frankfurt, who beat Vitoria Guimaraes 1-0 in Portugal.
Emery praised his team which had an average starting age of 22.
“We have to give the chances to the young players and they take them,” he said. “They are close to playing for us at the highest levels. They showed tonight that they can perform and they can score.”
GOOD NIGHT FOR SPANISH TRIO
A stoppage-time winner by Willy Boly gave Wolves a 1-0 win away to Besiktas — their first points in Group ‘K’. Slovan Bratislava and Braga drew 2-2 to move to four points.
Sevilla have six points in Group ‘A’ with former United striker Javier Hernandez on target against APOEL who suffered a second loss.
Humble Spanish outfit Getafe also have six points from two games in Group ‘C’ with Angel scoring twice in Krasnodar while Basel are second after a 2-2 draw away to Turkish club Trabzonspor.
Espanyol forward Wu Lei became the first Chinese man to score in a major European competition as his side beat CSKA Moscow. Espanyol trail Ludogorets by two points in Group ‘H’ after the Bulgarian club remained 100% with a 3-0 win away to Hungary’s Ferencvaros.
Group ‘G’ looks like being a real dogfight with all four sides on three points after Feyenoord’s win over Porto and Young Boys beating Steven Gerrard’s Rangers 2-1.
Jens Toornstra and Rick Karsdorp scored for Feyenoord in a lively second half while Rangers conceded an injury-time goal in Bern.
Colombian forward Alfredo Morelos put Rangers ahead just before half-time, but Young Boys levelled through Roger Assale and Christian Fassnacht grabbed a 93rd-minute winner.
FC Copenhagen drew 1-1 in a cross-border derby in Sweden against Malmo to top Group ‘B’ with four points, the same as Dynamo Kiev who drew 0-0 in Lugano.
PSV Eindhoven are another club on maximum points from two games after a comfortable 4-1 victory away to Rosenborg in Group ‘D’ in which Sporting came from a goal down to beat Austrian minnows LASK 2-1 in Lisbon.
Scottish champions Celtic moved top of Group ‘E’ with four points as they avenged a Champions League third qualifying defeat against Romanian side CFR Cluj, Odsonne Edouard and Mohamed Elyounoussi scoring in a 2-0 win in Glasgow. Lazio beat French club Rennes in the same group to get off the mark after losing to Cluj.
In Group ‘I’, VfL Wolfsburg drew 1-1 in St Etienne to stay top alongside Gent who also drew 1-1 away to Oleksandriya.
Borussia Moenchengladbach scored in stoppage time for a 1-1 draw at Istanbul Basaksehir for the club’s first point. Austrian debutants Wolfsberg also earned a 1-1 draw against AS Roma at home for both teams to top the Group J table with four points.
Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2019