Europa League: Porto and Besiktas dominate Group L

(GSM) – Group L of the UEFA Europa league is beginning to take shape as both Porto and Besiktas won their away games on Thursday.

Porto traveled to Bulgaria to face CSKA Sofia and a goal from Colombian striker Radamel Falcao was enough for the Portuguese giants to secure a 0-1 victory.

Besiktas played away to Austrian side Rapid Wien and initially struggled as Veli Kavlak put the hosts ahead in the 51st minute.

But Filip Holosko restored the balance four minutes later and Bobo netted the winner in the 64th minute.

Porto and Besiktas each have six points after two games, with the Portuguese occupying the top spot thanks to a better goal record.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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CSKA Moskva and Palermo victorious at home

(GSM) – CSKA Moskva kept their perfect record in Europa League Group F with a convincing 3-0 win over Sparta Praha, while Palermo beat Lausanne Sports 1-0 in Italy.

Russian side CSKA received Sparta in Moscow and while it took a while for either side to make the difference, the hosts eventually broke the deadlock through Seydou Doumbia in the 72nd minute.

Mark Gonzalez went on to add a second from the penalty spot in the 84th minute and Doumbia netted a third two minutes later, 3-0.

On Sicily, Palermo were the winning side in a clash with Swiss outfit Lausanne Sports. The only goal came from Giulio Migliaccio in the 79th minute.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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BATE, Sheriff shock opposition in Europa League

(GSM) – BATE are the new leaders in Group E of the Europa League following a convincing 4-1 win over Dutch side AZ, while Sheriff beat Dynamo Kyiv 2-0 to jump to second place.

AZ beat Sheriff in their opening game two weeks ago but showed a very different form at BATE in Belarus.

The hosts opened the scoring through Vitali Rodionov in the fifth minute and Artem Kontsevoy made it 2-0 four minutes after the interval.

Renan (penalty, 77th) and Edgar Olekhnovic (83rd) went on to give the Belarussians an even more comfortable lead, before Kolbeinn Sigthorsson scored a late consolation goal for 4-1.

In the other Group E game, Moldova’s Sheriff surprised with a 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv. Alexandr Erokhin scored the opener on eight minutes and Jymmy França netted the second from the spot in the 37th.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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PAOK, Villarreal win in Group D

(GSM) – PAOK are on top of Europa League Group D following a 1-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb while Villarreal earned their first points in a 2-1 victory over Club Brugge.

PAOK, who drew 1-1 with Club Brugge in their opening group match, earned a narrow but valuable home victory over Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday.

The hosts, without a single Greek in their starting line-up, scored the only goal through Serbian forward Vladimir Ivic in the 56th minute.

Villarreal hosted Club Brugge in Spain and took the lead through Giuseppe Rossi in the 41st minute. At this point, Brugge were already a man down as Ronald Vargas was sent off in the 26th.

Dutchman Ryan Donk leveled the score in the last minute before the break but Villarreal had the final say as Gonzalo made it 2-1 in the 56th minute.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Sporting crush Levski, stay on top in Group C

(GSM) – Sporting Lisbon cruised to a 5-0 victory over Levski Sofia in Thursday’s Europa League action, while Gent and Lille held each other to a 1-1 draw.

Portuguese giants Sporting had already beaten Lille 1-2 in their opening group game, and had no difficulties earning their second victory at home against Levski.

Daniel Carriço scored the opening goal in Sporting’s favour after 30 minutes, and Maniche doubled the advantage shortly before the break.

Diogo Salomao (53rd), Helder Postiga (61st) and Matias Fernandez (79th) went on to set the score to 5-0.

Gent and Lille, who both lost their opening games, shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Stijn de Smet put the Belgian hosts ahead after just five minutes but Pierre Frau equalized in the 21st.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Bayer and Atletico draw, Rosenborg beat Aris

(GSM) – Bayer Leverkusen remain in first place in Europa League Group B following a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid, while Rosenborg earned their first points in a 2-1 win over Aris.

Bayer, who beat Rosenborg in their opening group game, traveled to the Spanish capital city and were ahead after 39 minutes with a goal from Eren Derdiyok.

Atletico, who won this tournament last season, did limit the damage as Simao leveled the score six minutes after half time.

Rosenborg bounced back from their opening round defeat and beat Greek side Aris 2-1.

The Norwegians drew first blood through Morten Moldskred in the 37th minute but his goal was canceled out by Carlos Ruiz six minutes later.

The winning goal came in the 68th minute with Swedish striker Rade Prica beating goalkeeper Sifakis for 2-1.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Manchester City, Juventus share points in Europa League

(GSM) – Manchester City and Juventus shared the points in Thursday’s Europa League top clash while Lech Poznan beat Salzburg to jump to the top of Group A.

Juventus hoped to recover from their 3-3 draw with Salzburg two weeks ago and were on their way to a good result at Manchester City after Vincenzo Iaquinta’s opening goal in the 11th minute.

But the English hosts restored the balance 20 minutes later with Adam Johnson sending the ball past the opposing goalkeeper for 1-1, which would also be the final score.

Lech Poznan received Austrian side Salzburg and a 2-0 victory was enough for the Polish outfit to surpass Manchester City on goal difference.

Manuel Arboleda scored the opening goal two minutes after the break and Slawomir Peszko doubled the advantage with ten minutes to go.

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Giggs rules himself out of Wales job

Ryan Giggs ended speculation he might become the next Wales manager on Thursday by insisting he intends to concentrate solely on his career as a footballer with Manchester United.

The Welsh winger did not rule out the possibility of one day taking charge of the national side but said now was not the time.

Giggs’s name has been in the frame ever since John Toshack quit as Wales boss at the start of this month.

Former Manchester United star Mark Hughes took on the Wales job while still playing for Southampton but, with United in the Champions League, Giggs has no intention of following that example.

“I am playing for Manchester United and am fully focused on that,” said Giggs at the launch of his autobiography, Ryan Giggs: My Life, My Story.

“I just don’t think you can do the two, especially at a club like United.

“I know Mark Hughes did them but it is a little bit different when you are playing Champions League.”

However, the 36-year-old has been taking his UEFA coaching badges in preparation for the day when playing is no longer an option and managing a team is a realistic proposition.

“One day I would like to do it but I didn’t think about it this time,” said Giggs. “Before I get any job I want to get all the necessary qualifications, I wouldn’t take a job until I had them.

“I am halfway through my UEFA ‘A’ Licence at the moment, the idea being that I will be ready for it when I do finish.”

However, he added: “I honestly don’t know whether I would like it. Until you try it, how can you?

“I will probably either love it or hate it. I enjoy helping young players and being out on the training ground. I enjoy the buzz of the game.

“But when you are not playing you are going to lose all that. How do you get it back? Coaching or managing.”

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Man City test mettle against Juve in Europa draw

Manchester City kept Juventus at arm’s length in Europa League Group A after a 1-1 draw between the sides on Thursday, while Liverpool and holders Atletico Madrid also recorded draws.

City fell behind in the 11th minute when a long-range effort from Vincenzo Iaquinta took a deflection off Kolo Toure and fizzed past Joe Hart, but the hosts drew level eight minutes before the interval with a goal of real quality.

Yaya Toure picked up possession in the centre of the pitch and slid a beautifully weighted pass through to Adam Johnson, whose first touch caught Alex Manninger flat-footed and allowed him to toe the ball into an unguarded goal.

Alessandro Del Piero almost snatched victory for the Italians in the 85th minute but his dipping free-kick hit the crossbar and bounced on the goal-line before rebounding to safety.

“It was hard. They’re an Italian side, so we knew they’d come here and defend well,” said Johnson.

“I think we were the better team, especially in the second half.”

The English side top the group on four points alongside Polish outfit Lech Poznan, who beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-0. Juve are two points back in third.

A second-half penalty from Simao allowed Atletico to come from a goal down and claim a 1-1 draw at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen lead Group B by a point from Atletico’s matchday one conquerors Aris Thessaloniki and Rosenberg, who beat the Greeks 2-1 in Norway.

Earlier, Liverpool’s stuttering season yielded another forgettable performance when the English giants were held to a 0-0 draw at Dutch side FC Utrecht.

Roy Hodgson’s side came close to conceding on numerous occasions, with Jan Wuytens seeing a first-half effort chalked off for a foul and Dries Mertens drawing a sharp save from Reds goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 39th minute.

Liverpool were lucky to escape early in the second period when Raul Meireles had to head off the line from skipper Michael Silberbauer, while Jacob Mulenga poked the ball across goal and wide for the hosts late on.

“I thought it was a good point,” said Hodgson, who guided Fulham to a surprise runners-up finish in last season’s competition.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game. It wasn’t a dull 0-0. Utrecht did well. Utrecht were very committed. We saw a good team.”

In the group’s other game, Napoli hit back from conceding three goals in the first 16 minutes at Steaua Bucharest to snatch a 3-3 draw, with Uruguayan Edinson Cavani notching the equaliser in the eighth minute of added time.

The results mean Liverpool top Group K and have a two-point lead over Napoli and Utrecht.

Napoli’s fellow Serie A representatives Sampdoria won 1-0 at home to Hungarian side Debrecen in Group I, thanks to an 18th-minute penalty by Giampaolo Pazzini.

Sampdoria share the lead in the group with PSV Eindhoven, who won 2-0 at Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv.

Gregorio Manzano’s first game in charge of Sevilla saw his new charges win 1-0 at in-form Borussia Dortmund in Group J.

A goal in first-half injury-time from on-loan Napoli midfielder Luca Cigarini was the difference between the teams, while Marcel Schmelzer was dismissed for the German side after being shown a second yellow card for diving.

Paris Saint-Germain top the group after a 2-0 win at home to Karpaty Lviv gave them six points from a possible six prior to their trip to Dortmund next month.

“It’s a dream start but nothing’s decided yet,” said PSG coach Antoine Kombouare. “We expect to have a difficult time at Dortmund.”

Thu 30 September, 2010
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Euro 2012 on track, say Poland and Ukraine

Preparations for Euro 2012 are right on schedule, tournament co-hosts Poland and Ukraine said Thursday.

“Taking full responsibility, we can say that everything is going according to UEFA’s plans, and that the matches will take place in eight cities, four in Poland and four in Ukraine,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said during a visit by his Ukrainian opposite number Mykola Azarov.

“We can congratulate each other, with a clear conscience,” he told reporters.

The two leaders said that they had approved a road map for the remaining preparations for the European football championships, which are set to kick off in Poland’s brand new national stadium in Warsaw in June 8, 2012

In April 2007, European football’s governing body UEFA caught the pundits napping when it picked Poland and Ukraine over favourites Italy and joint bidders Hungary and Croatia to host the 16-team quadrennial showcase.

It will be the first time either has run a major tournament and marks UEFA’s first serious foray behind the former Iron Curtain.

That means a far greater challenge on the infrastructure front than previous, western European editions of the tournament, last held in 2008 in Alpine-efficient Austria and Switzerland.

Amid concerns about the ability of the hosts, particularly Ukraine, to make the grade in time, UEFA chief Michel Platini cranked up the pressure and issued a string of ultimatums.

But the tone has now changed.

“I think things are progressing in the right direction,” Martin Kallen, UEFA’s Euro watchdog, told AFP last month.

“The decision was made in 2007 to go for Ukraine and Poland, and since then, UEFA has been pushing very hard,” he said. “But this will be a fantastic tournament.”

Thu 30 September, 2010
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