Europe League roundup: Everton big winners at home; Spurs left with draw on the road

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Twenty-four games kicked off action in this year’s Europa League, and no, we didn’t watch them all. But thanks to the power of researchery and our friends who are at the games, we can keep you up to date on UEFA’s second club tournament. Here’s what happened on Matchday One:

Group A

Apollon Limassol (Cyrpus) 3-2 FC Zurich (Switzerland)
Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany) 1-1 Villarreal (Spain)

Fabian Johnson was back at left midfield as Gladbach welcomed the Yellow Submarine – one of the day’s more anticipated games. The home side went up through Patrick Hermann in the 21st minute only to see Ikychukwu Uche equalize after halftime. While both teams are expected to get out of this group, Villarreal took an early edge on the cluster’s top spot.

In Cyprus, Welsh referee Lee Evans produced two second half red cards, the first (to Apollon’s Marcos Gullon) unable to prevent the home side from breaking a 2-2 tie in the 87th minute. When Yassine Chikhaoui was dismissed for Zurich, the Cypriots were back to even strength, eventually taking full points to open their tournament.

Group B

Club Brugges (Belgium) 0-0 Torino (Italy)
FC Copenhagen (Denmark) 2-0 HJK (Finland)

Two second half goals from Nicolai Jorgensen gave the home team and opening night victory, one that would have been worse had Andreas Cornelius converted an early second half penalty kick.
In Brugges, the teams combined for three shots on target as Torino returned to Europe for the first time in 12 years with a draw in Belgium.

Group C

Besiktas (Turkey) 1-1 Asteras Tripolis (Greece)
Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) 0-0 Tottenham (England)

Wholesale changes by Mauricio Pochettino failed to produce a team capable of putting a shot on target. Fortunately for Spurs, the team’s defense nearly pulled off the same trick, holding its hosts to two tries on Hugo Lloris. With 63 percent possession, Tottenham eased to a point on the road.

Thanks to a first half goal from Gokhan Tore, Besiktas was minutes away from claiming an early lead in the group. With an 88th minute equalizer from Facundo Parra, however, the underdogs were able to take a result out of Istanbul, leaving four leaders at the top of Group C after one round.

Group D

Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 5-1 Astra Giurgiu (Romania)
Salzburg (Austria) 2-2 Celtic (Scotland)

El Arbi Soudani scored in the 17th, 24th, and 45th minutes for Dinamo, putting the Croatians in cruise control at halftime.
In Salzburg, a late equalizer from Jonatan Soriano pulled back Celtic’s second lead of the day. Despite putting only two shots on target (to their hosts’ 10), the Scottish champions escaped Salzburg with a point.

Group E

PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) 1-0 Estoril (Portugal)
Panathinaikos (Greece) 1-2 Dinamo Moscow (Russia)

One of the competition’s deeper groups saw PSV take care of business at home, albeit in a muted way. Luuk de Jong’s 26th minute conversation from the spot was the only goal for Phillip Cocu’s team.

In Greece, goals on either side of halftime by Alexander Kokorin and Aleksey Ionov had the visitors up two by the 49th minute, with only a score from Athanasios Dinas pulling the hosts within reach of salvaging a result.

Group F

FK Karabakh (Azerbaijan) 0-0 Saint Etienne (France)
Dnipro (Ukraine) 0-1 Inter Milan (Italy)

Danilo D’Ambrosio’s 71st minute goal against a 10-man Dnipro proved the day’s only score, with Group F’s quartets combining for only 11 shots on target across the two games.

Group G

Standard Liege (Belgium) 2-0 Rijeka (Croatia)
Sevilla (Spain) 2-0 Feyenoord (Netherlands)

The holders got off to a strong start against a Feyenoord team still regrouping from its offseason losses. Thanks to first half goals from Grzegorz Krychowiak and Stephane Mbia, the Sevillistas carried their two-goal lead for the match’s final 59 minutes.

In Beligium, the day’s goals came late, with Rijeka able to keep its hosts at arm’s length until the 74th minute. That’s when Laurent Ciman headed hom a corner for Standard, with Vinicius Araujo doubling his team’s lead just before full-time.

Group H

Lille (France) 1-1 FC Krasnodar (Russia)
Everton (England) 4-1 Wolfsburg (Germany)

An impressive European debut for Everton manager Roberto Martinez saw his Toffees up three goals by the 47th minute, with an early own goal from Ricardo Rodriguez giving way to scores by Seamus Coleman and, from the spot, Leighton Baines. Kevin Mirallas added further insurance in the 89th minute, with Rodrguez making late amends with a stoppage time score.

In France, Lille fell behind to Ricardo Laborde’s 35th minute opener, an advantage Krasnodar carried past the hour. In the 63rd minute, Danish international Simon Kjaer hit a free kick into Andrey Dikan’s lower right hand corner, giving Lille a result despite being limited to two shots on target.

Group I

Young Boys (Switzerland) 5-0 Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia)
Napoli (Italy) 3-1 Sparta Prague (Czech Republic)

The slow start to Rafa Benitez’s second season in Naples took a needed turn for the better, with his team rebounding from a weekend loss to Chievo with a victory in Europe. Though they fell behind early after a Josef Husbeauer goal, the partenopei came back with a penalty conversion from Gonzalo Higuain. Dries Mertens added two goals after halftime.

In Switzerland, five different goal scorers saw Young Boys put up one of the day’s most-lopsided results, though late scores from Adrian Nikci (80′) and Guillaume Hoarau (90′) exaggerated the gap between the sides.

Group J

Steaua Bucharest (Romania) 6-0 AaB (Denmark)
Rio Ave (Portugal) 0-3 Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)

Kept out of Champions League by the most surprising circumstances (opposing defender in goal during a penalty kick shootout), Steaua took its frustrations out on the visiting Danes, with Claudiu Keseru’s second half hat trick producing the day’s most one-sided result.

In Portugal, Ukraine powerhouse Dynamo got goals from Andriy Yarmolenko, Younes Belhanda, and Artem Kravets to keep with the group’s theme – favorites putting up landslide results.

Group K

PAOK (Greece) 6-1 Dinamo Minsk (Belarus)
Fiorentina (Italy) 3-0 Guingamp (France)

Goals from Stefanos Athanasiadis in the 11th, 16th, and 28th minutes had PAOK up 4-0 before the half hour mark, with Dinamo reduced to 10 men after Slobodan Simovic saw red in the second half.

In Florence, goals from Juan Cuadrado and Federico Berndeschi piled on after Mustapha Diallo’s red card left Fiorentina up a man and a goal at halftime. La Viola kept 68 percent of the ball.

Group L

Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine) 1-2 Trabzonspor (Turkey)
Legia Warsaw (Poland) 1-0 Lokeren (Belgium)

Former Milan defender Kevin Constant opened the scoring for Trabzonspor in Ukraine, though an equalizer near the hour-mark from Volodimir Gomenyuk seemed to destine the sides for a draw. Four minutes into stoppage time, Avraam Papadopoulos defied that destiny, scoring from close range to given the Turks an upset in Kharkiv.

In Poland, a match short on chances went into halftime scoreless, a tie that was broken in the 58th minute. Scoring from the middle of Lokeren’s area, Miroslav Radovic ensured Legia took full points and shares a spot at the top of the group.

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.