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.

The 2 Robbies: Talking Liverpool, Manchester, Spurs at Man Utd

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle wrap up a great weekend of Premier League action. Liverpool took all three points against Crystal Palace. The guys chat about the mood in the United dressing room (12:40) and the opposite feelings across Manchester as Man City thrashed Huddersfield (25:30). We wrap up looking ahead to the big one: Manchester United vs Tottenham next week (33:30).

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5 p.m. ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Report: Woodward to appoint director of football at Manchester United

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Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward is readying a change to the hierarchy at Old Trafford as he attempts to steady the ship, and it’s not the removal of controversial manager Jose Mourinho.

The Manchester Evening News is reporting that Woodward will appoint a director of football at the club to help ease the burden after growing frustration from Mourinho and supporters following a summer with few transfer buys.

[ MORE: Klopp on beating Palace ]

Mourinho lamented the lack of additions in the summer after he gave a specific list of center back targets to Woodward and got exactly zero of them.

Now after beating Leicester City and losing at Brighton, United could be in a bad position early if they cannot manage a positive performance against visiting Tottenham on Aug. 27.

And MEN reports that Woodward is eager to get himself out of “the firing line.”

United have not held back when it comes to issuing press releases boasting about their many commercial partners, but there has been a quiet revamp of the club’s academy, scouting network and training ground facilities behind the scenes.

One of the final steps is bringing in a director of football – something many United fans have been crying out for following the club’s patchy transfer record with Woodward at the helm.

Woodward is not going to appoint anyone who would undermine his decisions, and the hire could speak volumes about Mourinho’s future, short or long.

Second week second-guessing Premier League table predictions

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The transfer window had just closed when ProSoccerTalk’s staff made their predictions for the 2018-19 season.

For the most part, the first two weeks of the Premier League season have cemented this writer’s faith in his projections.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

In four cases, however, being allowed some Monday mulligans would have me moving teams more than one spot in my predicted table.

Moving up

Spurs (Predicted 6th; New spot 3rd) –> The worries I have about Dele Alli returning to world-beating status have been quelled by Lucas Moura‘s newfound comfort in creating Premier League chances. Tottenham’s defenders the same. Next Monday’s trip to Manchester United will say a lot about both clubs. And hanging onto Toby Alderweireld instead of allowing him to steady Manchester United’s creaky back line was smart.

Watford (Predicted 18th; New spot 12th) — Don’t get us wrong, the Hornets have not done much yet. Beating a Europa League weary and shallow Burnley isn’t a great feat, though their home defeat of Brighton is a bit more impressive after the Gulls knocked off Man Utd. That said, Javi Gracia‘s men have a clear plan to get service to Troy Deeney and Andre Gray, and terrific playmakers in Roberto Pereyra and Abdoulaye Doucoure. They are better than relegation fodder, and should finish 7-10 points clear of the drop.

Moving down

Manchester United (Predicted 2nd; New spot 5th) –> United probably would’ve drawn Brighton on Sunday had they a few extra minutes on the clock, but there’s a chance Leicester would’ve done the same to them on Opening Day if afforded the same opportunity. Is Eric Bailly the proactive wall we saw versus the Foxes or, well, the reactive problem he was at Brighton?

I believed the start of the season and return to fitness for so many World Cup players would dispel the odious scent from Jose Mourinho’s offseason obnoxiousness. It hasn’t, and it’s going to cost the team the Top Four. That said, I’ll hedge a little and say United’s players may make a decent Champions League run if given a good group stage draw.

Wolves (Predicted 13th; New spot 17th) –> I thought Wolves had enough firepower to challenge for a top half spot, but Nuno Espirito Santo’s side looks incapable of keeping dangerous chances away from goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who can only do so much.

Klopp: Let’s not worry about sending statements to Man City

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Jurgen Klopp thought both his Liverpool and hosts Crystal Palace were feeling exhausted in the second half of the Reds’ 2-0 win at Selhurst Park, so he loudly threatened to murder his players.

Okay, okay, that’s not exactly true, but you be the judge: He got a goal out of it.

[ RECAP: Palace 0-2 Liverpool ]

“In these moments the fuel is really low and maybe the players need a bit of help from an angry manager, ‘Run or I will kill you,’ and they did that with a fantastic counter attack,” Klopp said.

Cool. That said, Klopp pointed tot his team’s commitment to fitness as a reason for their win.

“Second half both teams, you could see Crystal Palace maybe struggle a little bit more than we did but it was for us very intense as well,” he said. “We had these big chances, didn’t use them. They had their moments when Alisson had to make a few saves. The save on the free kick was outstanding. I know we have to play much better but for tonight I’m absolutely fine with that.”

Klopp bristled when asked about meeting Man City’s 6-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town with a fairly complete performance against Palace.

 “I am not interested in sending statement to Manchester City or anyone else. We want to win football games and that’s what we did tonight.”