Amidst rumours of a possible suspension, the Europa League continued on Thursday – albeit with 2 games cancelled and only one match played with fans in the stadium. FOX Sports Asia rounds-up the key talking points from the competitions latest set of fixtures.
Five-star Manchester United now the favourites to win Europa League?
Manchester United came into their Europa League game expecting a tricky away fixture against LASK who is a not-so-well-known opponent. However, they were able to run riot against the Austrian Bundesliga leaders – as Odion Ighalo continued his United fairy-tale with a fantastic goal, while Daniel James, Juan Mata, Mason Greenwood and Andreas Pereira all joining in on the goal-fest.
The Red Devils had entered the round-of-16 virtue of a 6-1 aggregate victory against Belgium league leaders Club Brugge. With the Austrian league leaders also put to the sword and with the big guns from the Serie A and La Liga in jeopardy courtesy of the COVID-19 situation, Manchester United are surely the favourites for the title now?
Rangers lose in Europe at home for the first time under Gerrard
Rangers’s fixture against Bayer Leverkusen in Ibrox was the only Europa League game to go ahead with a packed stadium on Thursday, as other teams played under closed doors.
Instead of playing into the hand of Steven Gerrard’s team, however, it was the away side who played to entertain the crowd as they dominated the first-half and deservedly went 1-0 up via a Kai Havertz penalty. Charles Aranguiz then scored a stunner for them before Edmundson scored Rangers’ first and only goal.
Later, it was Leon Bailey who settled Bayer Leverkusen’s nerves with a beautiful curler to make it three for his team and give them a two-goal lead going into the second leg that will be played behind closed doors in Germany.
Reluctant-to-travel Wolves draw against 10-man Olympiacos
Wolverhampton Wanderers had officially requested the Europa League to postpone their game after it came to light that the Olympiacos owner had tested positive for COVID-19. The competition had however denied their request and the English side were forced to play out their fixture despite their reservations.
Olympiacos opened the scoring in the 54th minute in spite of being reduced to 10 men as early as the 28th minute, after Ruben Semedo was sent off. But Wolves did not lose their composure and pushed on to score an equalizer later on.
Neither of the teams could grab a winner however and will have a go at it again in the second leg in a week’s time.
First set of closed-door fixtures
The Europa League played out its first set of closed-door fixtures and they were clearly a rather curious experience for players and viewers alike. The subdued atmosphere was nowhere close to the intensity of a real game, with teams seeming a tad slower and less under-pressure as compared to open-door fixtures.
The viewers are of course used to the hustle and bustle of a packed stadium and hearing nothing but the calls of players and coaches for the entire 90 minutes, which in turn made for a rather unenjoyable viewing experience. There was also the matter of certain teams being robbed of their home advantage but as things stand, the situation is what it is.
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 FC Basel
Istanbul Basaksehir 1-0 FC Copenhagen
VfL Wolfsburg 1-2 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan – Getafe CF Postponed
Sevilla – AS Roma Postponed