It’s been tough times for English clubs in Europe of late — Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool knocked out of European competition, with Arsenal and Manchester City also on their way out — but was Thursday any different with one last English team still in the Europa League?
Answer: Maybe so! Everton labored at times, but came out with a 2-1 victory over Ukrainian side Dynamo Kiev at Goodison Park, putting themselves in a decent position to be the lone Premier League team standing in the quarterfinals of a European cup competition this season.
Oleg Gusev put the visitors ahead after 14 minutes, grabbing what could still be the deciding away goal as the tie heads back to Kiev next Thursday. Steven Naismith equalized from 12 yards out five minutes before halftime, assisted by strong hold-up play from Romelu Lukaku. The first leg looked destined to finish 1-1 before Lukaku converted a penalty kick in the 82nd minute, breaking the deadlock and inching the Toffees ahead.
Wolfsburg 3-1 Inter Milan
It’s Kevin de Bruyne’s world and we’re all just living in it. The former Chelsea midfielder scored twice (14 on the season) and assisted (21) on Wolfsburg’s other as the Bundesliga side took a commanding 3-1 lead over Inter Milan.
Inter were first on the scoreboard as Rodrigo Palacio grabbed an important away goal with five minutes on the clock. De Bruyne set up Naldo for the equalizer just before the half-hour mark, then the 23-year-old Belgian took the game over, bagging a brace 12 minutes apart just past the hour mark.
Fiorentina 1-1 Roma
Josip Ilicic struck first, putting Fiorentina 1-0 ahead in the 17th minute, slamming home a through ball from Mohamed Salah. Adem Ljajic had a penalty kick saved by Neto right on the hour mark, but Seydou Keita beat the Brazilian ‘keeper with 13 minutes still to play in regular time, equalizing on the day and making Roma slight favorites to advance ahead of the second leg in Rome.
Elsewhere in Europa League
Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 Torino
Dnipro 1-0 Ajax
Club Brugge 2-1 Besiktas
Villarreal 1-3 Sevilla
Napoli 3-1 Dinamo Moscow
Fourteen of the league’s 20 teams debuted this weekend, as European combatants Atalanta and Inter Milan will start the season late along with Serie B playoff winners Spezia.
That leaves opponents Lazio, Benevento, and Udinese also waiting to start their 2020-21 seasons.
Benjamin Button’s brace leaves Milan
Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as AC Milan started the Serie A season with a 2-0 defeat of Bologna on Monday.
The humble Swede said that if he were 18 years younger he would’ve scored two more.
“I am not old, I am like Benjamin Button, I start old and die young,” Ibrahimovic said after the win. “Kidding aside, the team worked well, we are not at 100 percent and therefore made some mistakes we usually avoid, but it bodes well.”
Ibrahimovic is 38 years old and demanding he not be held to any less of a standard than his prime, which is incredible considering his prime is better than 99 percent of top soccer careers.
“I don’t want people to talk about my age, I want to be treated at the same level as everyone else,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I am 38, I want to be treated like someone aged 20 and do the same work.”
Milan is coming off seven-straight seasons outside of the top four, six of those coming behind their city rivals Inter Milan.
But Ibrahimovic’s 2019-20 half-season in Italy showed he can still bring the goods, with 14 goals and five assists in 20 appearances
Now he’s scored thrice in two competitive fixtures after opening his campaign with a goal against Shamrock Rovers in Europa League qualifying.
Milan is aiming high and is tied for the fifth-best odds to win the scudettothis season due to a talented squad that features Ibrahimovic, Alessio Romagnoli, Gianlugi Donnarumma, and Theo Hernandez.
“This year, we have to take it one game at a time, play with confidence and treat every match like a Cup Final.”
McKennie impresses as Juve rolls again
Playing under Andrea Pirlo has started well for USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie.
The 22-year-old Texan went 90 minutes in central midfield with Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot as Juventus beat Sampdoria 3-0 in Turin.
McKennie had 94 touches and completed 88 percent of his passes, with one key pass and four-of-five crosses in that mix.
He took two shots and converted his lone dribble attempt, the busy midfielderwinning six of 12 duels while registering four tackles, three interceptions, and two clearances. SofaScore did hit him with a “big chance missed” on debut.
McKennie kept some very good players on the bench in the forms of Arthur and Rodrigo Betancur. It’s going to be a battle to keep his place in the Starting XI but it’s clearly one he’s prepared to fight.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Leonoard Bonucci, and Dejan Kulusevski all scored for The Old Lady, who is bidding to win its 10th-straight title. That would double Inter’s second-best five-consecutive title run earlier this century.
Week 1 scoreboard
Fiorentina 1-0 Torino
Hellas Verona 0-0 AS Roma
Parma 0-2 Napoli
Genoa 4-1 Crotone
Sassuolo 1-1 Cagliari
Juventus 3-0 Sampdoria
AC Milan 2-0 Bologna
Week 2 fixtures
Torino v Atalanta — 9 am ET Saturday
Cagliari v Lazio — Noon ET Saturday
Sampdoria v Benevento — Noon ET Saturday
Inter Milan v Fiorentina — 2:45 pm ET Saturday
Spezia v Sassuolo — 6:30 am ET Sunday
Verona v Udinese — 9 am ET Sunday
Napoli v Genoa — 9 am ET Sunday
Crotone v AC Milan — Noon ET Sunday
AS Roma v Juventus — 2:45 pm ET Sunday
Bologna v Parma — 2:45 pm ET Monday
“The moment UEFA said we were going to play in Tel Aviv, it wasn’t a problem for me. Maccabi has a great team. We are not naive. We understand that we have to fight tomorrow.”
At 3:10 in some sportsbooks, Marsch’s men are the only club favored to win the first leg away. Salzburg is led by Dominik Szoboszlai and Patson Daka, who’ve helped the team thrive despite the sales of several stars including Erling Haalandand Takumi Minamino.
Molde has a much tougher test with Hungarian side Ferencvaros, who knocked off Celtic. That tie could go either way, while Slavia Prague and Olympiakos are respectively noticeable favorites to beat Midtjylland and Omonia Nicosia.
Dynamo Kiev will be expected to outlast Gent over two legs, while it would be a minor upset if PAOK takes down Krasnodar.
UEFA Champions League playoff round matches
All 12 legs will kickoff at 3 pm ET between Tuesday and Sept. 30.
Maccabi Tel-Aviv v. Red Bull Salzburg
Slavia Prague v Midtjylland
Krasnodar v PAOK
Gent v Dynamo Kiev
Molde v Ferencvaros
Olympiakos v Omonia
Ferencvaros v Molde
Dynamo Kiev v Gent
Omonia v Olympiakos
Midtjylland v Slavia Prague
PAOK v Krasnodar
Red Bull Salzburg v Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Bayern Munich thumped Schalke 8-0, running its win streak in all competitions to 22. That’s just two behind the world record set by Brazil’s Coritiba in 2011.
It’s not just about the extension of the streak, but about the pure domination from the champs.
Hat trick hero Serge Gnabry and midfield prototype Joshua Kimmich continued to play as well as any midfielder in the world. New pal Leroy Sane played a role in three goals while Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, and Leon Goretzka all scored before German-English teenager Jamal Musiala scored to make it eight.
As a domestic bonus, American defender Chris Richards played the final 17 minutes and completed 95 percent of his passes while making an interception.
As for the record, Bayern will have to work for it. The Bavarians need to beat Sevilla in Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup before visiting a decent Hoffenheim side.
If they win both, Bayern will have a chance to set a Guinness Book record by beating… Borussia Dortmund in the German Super Cup on Sept. 30.
Now let’s talk about Schalke. While sold midfielder Weston McKennie was starring for Juventus, the remaining players had little to like about their day.
A team that failed to win its final 16 league matches of the 2019-20 season, losing 10, was again oh-so-poor.
If manager David Wagner wanted to get some heat off his back after holding onto his position, this wouldn’t have helped things.
— Tyler Adams went the distance at midfield in RB Leipzig’s 3-1 win over Mainz. He was typically tidy at 78-of-82 passing including a perfect 4-for-4 on long balls. Adams had four tackles and won 4-of-9 duels.
— Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent was deployed as more of a left-sided attacking midfielder in a lopsided loss to Hertha, making one key pass and putting a matching shot on target in an uneven performance.
— John Brooks helped Wolfsburg keep a clean sheet and posted three clearances, three interceptions, and a tackle at center back. He wasn’t as clean passing as usual, but connected on 7-of-13 long balls.
— There were just a few minutes for 88th-minute Eintracht Frankfurt sub Timothy Chandler. He won his only duel and completed his only dribble in the waning moments of a 1-1 draw with Arminia Bielefeld.
— Reyna scored his first Bundesliga goal and won a penalty in 78 strong minutes that featured a perfect 29-for-29 in passes.
— Bayern’s Richards, 20, went 17 minutes and completed 19-of-20 passes while making an interception.
— Stuttgart manager Pellegrino Matarazzo, a New Jersey-born Columbia University product, saw his promoted side lose at home to Freiburg.
— U.S. eligible Norwegian youth international Julian Ryerson was an unused sub for Union Berlin.
Player of the Week
Serge Gnabry was absolutely marvelous. Even considering the lack of, well, everything from Schalke, Bayern’s hat trick man had as many key passes as goals.
Gnabry hit 30-of-35 passes in doing all of his damage on 57 touches over 72 minutes.
The German made three tackles and two interceptions to edge opposite wing Leroy Sane’s 1-goal, 2-assist, 5-key pass day and the hat trick produced by Hoffenheim’s Andrei Kramaric in giving his team three leads and the win.
All three of Koen Casteels’ saves in Wolfsburg’s 0-0 draw with Bayer Leverkusen came inside the box, while Lacroix put together a gaudy stat line in front of him: 10 clearances, four interceptions, three tackles.
No one completed more dribbles than Matheus Cunha’s five. The Brazilian also scored as Hertha hung four on Werder Bremen.
Hertha Berlin v Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 pm ET Sept. 25
Bayer Leverkusen v RB Leipzig — 9:30 am ET Sept. 26
Augsburg v Borussia Dortmund — 9:30 am ET Sept. 26
Borussia Monchengladbach v Union Berlin — 9:30 am ET Sept. 26
Arminia v Koln — 9:30 am ET Sept. 26
Mainz v Stuttgart — 9:30 am ET Sept. 26
Schalke v Werder Bremen — 12:30 pm ET Sept. 26
Hoffenheim v Bayern Munich — 9:30 am ET Sept. 27
Freiburg v Wolfsburg — Noon ET Sept. 27