Europa League review: Arsenal fight back


Gunners come from behind

Teenager Bukayo Saka spared stuttering Arsenal’s blushes as they came from behind to draw 2-2 at Standard Liege and secure their passage to the last 32 of the Europa League as Group F winners.

The Gunners trailed 2-0 in Belgium after Samuel Bastien’s shot was deflected past keeper Emiliano Martinez by Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Selim Amallah’s effort clipped Konstantinos Mavropanos on its way into the bottom corner.

But 18-year-old Saka crossed for Alexandre Lacazette to head the visitors level 12 minutes from time before making it 2-2 himself three minutes later.

His exploits proved invaluable as Group F rivals Eintracht Frankfurt, who led Vitoria 2-1, conceded twice inside the final five minutes to lose 3-2 with former Tottenham trainee Marcus Edwards claiming the winner.

Celtic were already assured of top spot in Group E, and they will be joined in the hat by Cluj after they cemented their place with a 2-0 home victory over the Scottish champions with second-half goals from Andrei Burca and Damjan Djokovic.

Lazio’s hopes of snatching second place were dashed by a 2-0 defeat at Rennes.

Malmo progressed as Group B winners after a 1-0 victory at FC Copenhagen, who finished second, while Dynamo Kiev and Lugano drew 1-1 in Ukraine.

Goals from Silvan Widmer and Valentin Stocker either side of half-time saw FC Basel beat Trabzonspor 2-0 to head Group C, and they will be accompanied by Getafe, who were 3-0 home winners over Krasnodar.

Vujadin Savic ruined Sevilla’s perfect Group A record as he fired APOEL Nicosia to a 1-0 victory over the LaLiga side with both progressing at the expense of Qarabag and Dudelange, who drew 1-1 in Baku.

Austrian surprise package LASK went through as Group D winners with a 3-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon, which saw them leapfrog the Portuguese outfit, who had to made do with second spot as PSV Eindhoven drew 1-1 at home to Rosenborg.

Greenwood stars for Man United

Teenager Mason Greenwood underlined his star quality by hitting a stunning brace as Manchester United beat AZ Alkmaar 4-0 to wrap up top spot in their Europa League group.

Following impressive Premier League victories against Tottenham and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side turned their attention to winning Group L against another team already guaranteed to be in Monday’s knockout phase draw.

AZ gave United a few scares during a sloppy first half but United eventually kicked into gear and roared to a convincing victory, with 18-year-old Greenwood’s exceptional double complementing efforts from elder statesmen Ashley Young and Juan Mata.

Winning Group L means United enter the round of 32 draw among the top seeds, avoiding the likes of Ajax, Benfica, Inter Milan and RB Salzburg.

It also means United are also guaranteed to play the second leg of February’s tie at Old Trafford, which witnessed an exciting glimpse of the future after a turgid first half.

Young broke the deadlock with his first European goal since February 2012, before Greenwood found the net with a low, fizzing strike from the edge of the box.

The 18-year-old drew the foul that saw Mata net a spot-kick and the forward then produced a fine, driven effort that beat Marco Bizot at his near post as he became the club’s youngest ever player to score a brace in major European competition.

Outrageously-gifted Greenwood was one of nine changes from Saturday’s thrilling win at City, where United’s start could scarcely have been much different to the one against AZ.

Meek and uninspired in possession on Thursday, United were penned back by Arne Slot’s side.

Yukinari Sugawara saw an early effort easily stopped by former AZ goalkeeper Sergio Romero, with Oussama Idrissi and Jordy Clasie having attempts after Young inexplicably ran into danger inside his own box.

Andreas Pereira’s shot on target in the sixth minute was all United could muster until Mata blazed over as the half-hour mark approached.

The Spaniard was blocked by makeshift defender Clasie, and Harry Maguire saw a header saved in a short-lived period of United momentum, with Idrissi, Dani De Wit and Calvin Stengs looking to give AZ a deserved lead.

Unmarked Stengs snuck behind to test Romero as Solskjaer’s side wobbled at the start of the second half – an effort that belatedly jolted United into life.

Greenwood’s fine footwork, composure and pass deserved a better finish than Anthony Martial could provide shortly before United broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute.

Pereira’s superb skill when crowded in the corner started a move that saw returning Nemanja Matic slip in Mata, whose ball across goal the box was turned in from an acute angle by Young.

The 53rd-minute opener was superbly added to within five minutes.

James Garner’s foul on Fredrik Midtsjo was missed by the officials much to AZ’s chagrin, but there could be no argument with Greenwood’s beautiful left-footed strike from 20 yards.

The 18-year-old continued to prove a thorn in Alkmaar’s side and drew a clumsy challenge from Clasie, allowing Mata to slam home a spot-kick in front of the Stretford End.

But fittingly man-of-the-match Greenwood would complete the scoring – and in some style.

Having collected the ball just outside the right-hand side of the box, he cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed a low strike that beat Bizot at his near post.

Stengs and Pereira had efforts to add more goals but the match petered out as Solskjaer’s side turned their focus to retaining energy for Everton’s visit on Sunday.

Wolves maul Besiktas

Diogo Jota became the first Wolves player in almost 50 years to score a European hat-trick after his treble beat Besiktas.

The substitute netted three times in 11 second-half minutes as Wolves routed the visitors 4-0, with Leander Dendoncker also scoring during a Europa League goal rush at Molineux.

But, despite their second-half heroics, Wolves finished second in Group K after Braga’s 4-2 comeback win in Bratislava.

It means Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will not be seeded for the last 32 when the draw is made on Monday.

They had already qualified for the knockout stages and with Besiktas bottom both teams made wholesale changes, which showed in the opening 20 minutes.

An uninspiring start had all the hallmarks of a dead rubber with neither side needing to up the tempo.

The only moment of note came when Patrick Cutrone had the ball in the net having already been flagged offside.

It was sleep-inducing stuff with Besiktas offering little except from Rebocho’s low shot which he dragged well wide.

Max Kilman tried to liven things up to no avail with a robust tackle on Umut Nayir which earned a booking five minutes before the break.

After the timid first half Wolves at least showed more intent early in the second only for Dendoncker to blow a big chance three minutes in.

The midfielder completely miscued a header after Utku Yuvakuran missed Ruben Vinagre’s cross.

It encouraged the hosts and, after Jota replaced Ruben Neves, the substitute made an immediate impact to spark a goal rush.

He had only been on the pitch 77 seconds but finished off a flowing move with his first touch.

Cutrone’s audacious flick sent Pedro Neto away on the right and he twisted his way out of danger to pick out Jota to nod in at the far post.

Wolves should have doubled their lead soon after but Dendoncker’s instinctive volley from Joao Moutinho’s corner hit the post and Kilman headed the rebound wide.

But a second arrived after 63 minutes to put Wolves in complete control.

Dendoncker hit the woodwork again, when his 25-yard drive was tipped onto the bar by Utku, but this time Jota bagged the follow up.

Then, Dendoncker finally got the goal he had been threatening when he headed in Moutinho’s corner after 67 minutes.

And less than two minutes later Jota had his hat-trick, firing in Oskar Buur’s low cross from close range to become Wolves’ first European hat-trick hero since Derek Dougan’s treble against Academica de Coimbra in the UEFA Cup in 1971.

Rangers seal place in last 32

Alfredo Morelos shook off his Hampden nightmare as his strike helped Rangers to a 1-1 draw with Young Boys that sealed their place in the Europa League last 32.

But Borna Barisic’s late own goal denied Steven Gerrard’s side, who had Ryan Jack sent off in stoppage time, top spot in Group G and they could now come up against one of the sides knocked out of the Champions League when the tournament resumes next year.

Morelos was the Light Blues’ fall guy during Sunday’s Betfred Cup final defeat to Celtic, missing a penalty and a series of golden chances.

But the Colombian brushed off any lingering self-doubt as he stroked home his 26th goal of the season.

He now has 14 alone in Europe, but this one – the fifth group game in a row in which he has netted – was the most precious of the lot as it extended Rangers’ continental campaign beyond Christmas for the first time since 2011.

Rangers dominated the first half but retreated into their shell after the break, with Barisic’s late blunder allowing Porto to snatch top spot with their win over Feyenoord in Portugal.

Gerrard had urged his men to take the opportunity to blast away the mood of despondency hanging over Ibrox since Sunday’s bitter defeat.

And they set about that task with real zeal. Balls were fired into the box from left and right as Ryan Kent, Morelos and Scott Arfield all had early sniffs.

But, given their experience against Hoops when they could not find a way past Fraser Forster, those inside Ibrox could have been forgiven for harbouring concerns.

There was certainly a strong sense of deja vu after 21 minutes as Joe Aribo slipped the ball in behind for Morelos as the front man timed his run to perfection.

Instead of Forster, this time it was David Von Ballmoos bearing down on the Light Blues’ top-scorer but the result was the same as the keeper threw out a leg to deny him the opener.

Seconds later Gers had a strong penalty claim dismissed by German referee Felix Brych as Frederik Sorensen clipped Morelos’ heel as he drove into the box.

The Colombian might have feared he was set for another night of despair but, as the half-hour mark approached, a pair of helping hands from the Swiss saw his luck suddenly transformed.

First Nicolas Burgy fired the ball straight at Kent under no pressure at all. Sorensen then had the chance to intercept the winger’s through-ball but instead fired it off Morelos’ shins.

Given all he has been through in recent days, it was with impressive calm that the striker rolled the ball into the net for the opener.

There was nothing sedate about the celebrations as Ibrox erupted and nine of Morelos’ outfield team-mates rushed to embrace the scorer, who appeared to signal his apologies for Sunday’s aberration to the fans in the Broomloan Road end.

However, there was a reminder in first-half stoppage time that Rangers still had work to do to seal their place in the knockout stage as Kent gifted possession away in the Young Boys half, with Christian Fassnacht – the match-winner when the sides last met in Bern – flashing a header just over.

Morelos got away from Sorensen just as the action resumed but let the angle get too tough as Von Ballmoos blocked again.

It was no surprise that Young Boys stepped things up as they looked to rescue their own qualification hopes.

Fassnacht was again the danger man as he forced Allan McGregor to tip over after Gers allowed their grip on the midfield battle to loosen.

Nerves started to creep into the Rangers display the closer they got to the finishing line.

Glen Kamara was loose with his passing, while even the normally dependable McGregor sent a kick into touch.

The inevitable occurred with just two minutes left as Barisic could not get out of the path of Felix Mambimbi’s strike.

The tension only increased moments later as Jack was dismissed for a second booking but the final whistle soon brought the moment of sweet relief Ibrox was longing for.


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