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UEFA Europa League Wrap: Early hopefuls get under way

Rosenborg began their 16th UEFA Europa League campaign in fine style as they overcame Northern Irish side Crusaders 2-1.

The Norwegian team have won Tippeligaen 22 times and they also reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 1997 and they began their current continental escapade in fine fashion.

Crusaders took the lead in the game but goals from John Chibuike and Jonas Svensson kept the team on the right path.

The first qualifying round also saw a number of teams making their debuts in the competition.

One of those who managed such a feat was Celje, with the Slovenian team earning a 2-1 win over Norway’s Tromso who reached the play-off stage last year.

They were aided by a red card for Hans Norbye and a subsequent penalty which was scored by captain Sebastjan Gobec.

Turnovo, Chikhura Sachkhere, Mariehamn and Kukes all earned draws in their debut matches to keep them in with a chance in the reverse fixtures.

Macedonian village outfit Turnovo drew 2-2 with Lithuanians Suduva, while Chikhura Sachkhere of Georgia managed to keep their opponents from Liechtenstein, Vaduz, goalless.

Mariehamn of Finland came through 1-1 against Inter Baku with a 72nd-minute goal from Alanzo Adlam and Kukes also managed to draw level after going 1-0 down to Flora Tallinn after 11 minutes.

There was a draw from Macedonian side Teteks who ended their match 1-1 with Armenian Cup winners Pyunik.

The opening qualifying round also saw Vikingur, Zalgiris, Drogheda and IBV stay level against their opponents ahead of the second leg.

Faroese Vikingur and Iceland’s IBV, who named former England number one David James in their side, drew 1-1 with Inter Turku and HB respectively; while Ireland’s Drogheda saw their match with Swedish side Malmo end goalless and Zalgiris had their hopes slashed by Ireland’s St Patrick’s on 87 minutes with a 2-2 finish.

A number of teams with experience of the tournament could not get their campaign off to a winning start though, with Andorra’s Santa Coloma and Hibernians of Malta both suffering heavy losses.

Santa Coloma lost 3-1 to Bosnian side Zrinjski despite going ahead in the first half as Ivan Crnov, Nebojsa Popovic and Velibor Djuric struck to leave the Andorrans facing an exit at this stage for the second straight season, while the Maltese side were thrashed 4-1 by Serbia’s Vojvodina.

Moldovan side Milsami, who had previously featured in the Europa League just twice, picked up a home 1-0 win against Luxembourgish regulars in Europe, F91 Dudelange.

There were also impressive wins for Dinamo Minsk of Belarus and Hungary’s Honved with the former beating Kruoja of Liechtenstein 3-0 and the latter overcoming Montenegro’s Celik Niksic 4-1.

Experienced sides Skonto, Differdange, Jeunesse Esch, Zilina and Teuta all recorded wins too.

Latvia’s Skonto and Luxembourg’s Differdange both game through 1-0 against Moldovan Cup holders Tiraspol and Albanians Laci respectively whilst another Luxembourg side, Jeunesse Esch, beat TPS of Finland 2-0.

Slovakian side Zilina overcame Torpedo Kutaisi of Georgia 3-0 with an impressive brace from Tomas Majtan followed up by a Robert Pich effort and Albania’s Teuta beat Moldovan outfit Dacia 3-1.

Kazakhstan were well represented in the round as their sides Astana and Aktobe both enjoyed success in their opening fixtures while Irytsh saw a 0-0 draw against accomplished side Levski Sofia.

Astana, who qualified thanks to their Kazakhstan Cup success sneaked past Bulgarian outfit Botev Plovdiv 1-0, while Aktobe, who reached the play-off stage in 2009 and 2010, narrowly beat Armenian opponents Gandzasar 2-1.

There was also strong representation from Britain with Prestatyn, Broughton and Glentoran all taking their place on the European stage.

Last season’s Welsh Cup winners Prestatyn lost 2-1 to Latvian side Liepajas Metalurgs on their Europa League debut, while another Wales-Latvia clash saw Airbus UK draw 1-1 with Ventspils, while Ulster side Glentoran’s clash with KR of Iceland ended goalless.

There was a number of close victories as Videoton, Libertas, Astra and Mika all took a one-goal advantage into the second legs.

Hungarian side Videoton beat tournament debutants Mladost Podgorica of Montenegro 2-1 and Libertas of San Marino were beaten by Sarajevo 1-0 thanks to an Alun Melunovic goal.

Astra Giurgiu of Romania overcame Slovenian side Domzale, back in Europe after a season out last term 1-0 in their first appearance in the competition and last term’s Armenian runners-up Mika beat Montenegrin opponents Rudar Pljevlja by the same score.

Thu 4 July, 2013
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