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Europa League Wrap: Chelsea, Arsenal, Milan all win, Celtic loses in Austria

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It was a packed day of Europa League action, with more than five hours of coverage. Let’s summarize what we learned after Matchday 2.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]


Chelsea 1-0 Vidi FC

Alvaro Morata finally broke his goal duck, scoring for the first time in six weeks as Chelsea overcame Vidi FC, 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Morata’s clinical finish, stabbing a strike home at the near post off a Willian header, was thanks to a wonderful cross into the box by Cesc Fabregas and creative wide play from substitutes Ross Barkley and Eden Hazard. The Chelsea pair drew four defenders out of the box, opening space for both Willian and Morata.

With the win, Chelsea sits at the top of Group  L with six points from two matches.


Apollon Limassol 2-2 Marseille

Emilio Zelaya’s stoppage time chip canceled out a 2-0 lead by Marseille on the road as Limassol secured a massive point in the Europa League. The 2-2 result came in spite of a pair of terrific Marseille goals, first from Dimitri Payet on a maze-like run and second from former Brazil international Luiz Gustavo.


Red Bull Salzburg 3-1 Celtic

Despite a second-minute goal, Red Bull Salzburg emerged victorious after 90 minutes over Celtic. Israeli international Munas Dabbur scored twice for the hosts in the second half, canceling out Odsonne Edouard’s solo goal just over 90 seconds into the match. With the defeat, Celtic move into third place, tied with RB Leipzig on three points but below the German club on goal differential.

Scoreboard

Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 AEK Larnaca

Zurich 1-0 Ludogorets

Rosenborg 1-3 RB Leipzig

Red Bull Salzburg 3-1 Celtic

Bordeaux 1-2 FC Copenhagen

FC Zenit 1-0 Slavia Prague

Anderlecht 0-2 Dinamo Zagreb

Fenerbahce 2-0 Spartak Trnava

Qarabag 0-3 Arsenal

Vorskla 1-2 Sporting Lisbon

Milan 3-1 Olympiacos

Betis 3-0 Dudelange

Rangers 3-1 Rapid Wien

Spartak Moscow 3-3 Villarreal

Apollon Limassol 2-2 Marseille

Eintracht Frankfurt 4-1 Lazio

Malmo 2-0 Besiktas

Sarpsborg 3-1 Genk

Krasnodar 2-1 Sevilla [Game-Winning Bicycle Kick]

Standard Liege 2-1 Akhisarspor

Astana 2-0 Rennes

Jablonec 2-2 Dynamo Kiev

BATE 1-4 PAOK

Chelsea 1-0 Vidi FC

Arsenal showcase depth in blowout of Qarabag

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  • Sokratis opens scoring
  • Smith Rowe, Guendouzi bag 1st senior goals
  • Ozil, Lacazette on bench
  • Aubameyang, Ramsey, Mkhitaryan left home

Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Emile Smith Rowe, and Matteo Guendouzi scored in Azerbaijan as Arsenal popped Qarabag 3-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.

Arsenal is now 2-0 in group play while Qarabag falls to 0-2. Arsenal now get Sporting Lisbon back-to-back in one of the league’s best group stage pairings.

[ MORE: Europa League standings ]

Arsenal, clad in red shorts to go with their red shirts, controlled play early and went ahead within a few minutes of said control.

Mohamed Elneny‘s corner kick was headed towards goal, and Sokratis was onside to redirect the ball over the line.

Emile Smith Rowe was very close with a sliding effort to meet Sead Kolasinac‘s cross to the back post in the 18th minute.

Bernd Leno made a fine save on Filip Ozobic in the 40th minute, with Sokratis clearing the rebound.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Qarabag thought it was level in the 49th minute, but Mahir Madatov’s run was a split second too early before the Azerbaijan international slotted past Leno.

Arsenal made it 2-0 under pressure, with Smith Rowe running onto a feed from Alex Iwobi in the 52nd. Then Guendouzi joined Smith Rowe with historic career moments by potting his first senior goal.

Europa League LIVE: Arsenal in Azerbaijan, Chelsea at home

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Arsenal is in Azerbaijan without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Chelsea hosts Hungarian opposition as the 2018-19 Europa League group stage moves into its second match day.

One match began earlier, with Astana and Stade Rennes matching wits in Kazakhstan.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League scoreboard ]

Unai Emery is keeping several big names out of the fire, or at least the Starting XI, at Qarabag for a 12:55 p.m. ET ahead of the Sunday’s Premier League match at Fulham.

In addition to Mkhitaryan staying home for political reasons, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (rest) and Aaron Ramsey (wife giving birth) are back in London, while Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are on the bench.

Youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi start for the Gunners, while Sead Kolasinac returns to the side.

Chelsea hosts MOL Vidi at 3 p.m. ET

Europa League preview: Chelsea, Arsenal heavy favorites

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It comes as little surprise that Arsenal would not send all of its stars to Azerbaijan for its meeting at Qarabag, though two of the reasons are relatively rare.

For Welsh star Aaron Ramsey, it’s a happy one: His wife is set to give birth.

[ MORE: Messi’s Wembley masterclass ]

But Armenian captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel because of hostility between Armenia and Azerbaijan that robbed him of a Champions League appearance when he was with Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

UEFA said Mkhitaryan could travel, but the player will stay behind. And Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov, also the manager of the Azerbaijan national team, is piling on. From The London Standard:

“If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time and until now a lot of Armenian sportsman came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn’t send. … Arsenal may be afraid that in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans, Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn’t send Mkhitaryan.”

Yikes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also stay behind, but Arsenal is still heavily favored to move to 2-0 in Europa League play.

London rivals Chelsea are home for a visit from Hungarian side MOL Vidi (you may remember them as Videoton).

The favored Blues will be expected to easily win given that MOL Vidi lost 2-0 at home to BATE Borisov in the opener, but Maurizio Sarri finds himself asking questions about whether Chelsea can persevere when it comes to facing Southampton in the Premier League this weekend.

“I don’t think at West Ham we didn’t win because of the match in Greece. We changed a lot of players so I don’t think the reason was that. Of course tomorrow we need to change some players because we have spent a lot of mental and physical energy in two games against Liverpool, and after tomorrow we have to play another game in about 60 to 62 hours so we need to change.”

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Rennes

12:55 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. AEK Larnaca
AC Milan vs. Olympiacos
Real Betis vs. F91 Dudelange
Zenit Saint-Petersburg vs. Slavia Prague
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Celtic
Zurich vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Rosenborg vs. RB Leipzig
Vorskla Poltava vs. Sporting CP
Anderlecht vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Fenerbahce vs. Spartak Trnava
Bordeaux vs. FC Copenhagen
Qarabag vs. Arsenal

3 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow vs. Villarreal
Standard Liege vs. Akhisar Belediyespor
Malmo vs. Besiktas
Chelsea vs. MOL Vidi
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Lazio
Jablonec vs. Dynamo Kiev
BATE Borisov vs. PAOK
Apollon Limassol vs. Marseille
Krasnodar vs. Sevilla
Sarpsborg vs. Genk
Rangers vs. Rapid Vienna

Third UEFA competition important despite “little commercial value”

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MADRID (AP) A third European club competition will have “little commercial value,” European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli said Monday, but it will still be important for smaller teams seeking to increase their exposure.

The 32-team yet-to-be-named competition is being discussed with UEFA for 2021 and beyond. It would be played in addition to the Champions League and the Europa League.

“It’s difficult to see commercial value when you look at a third-tier competition because there is very little commercial value, but sometimes we have to listen to our fellow club members who want to participate more,” Agnelli said at a soccer conference in the Spanish capital. “The fact that they are participating in international games would allow them to grow and showcase their players going forward.”

The Juventus president said there were initial discussions about expanding the Europa League from 48 teams to 64, but the consensus was that it would ultimately hurt the second-tier competition which already “struggles” commercially compared to the Champions League. The solution was to reduce the number of clubs in the Europa League and have all three European club competitions played with 32 clubs.

Agnelli also said making adjustments to the new international calendar that will begin in 2024 is “the first thing we have to tackle” as European clubs.

He said clubs would like to see all the confederation tournaments being played at the same time every four years, on even years, to help free up vacation time for players.

“We have to think of a moment where players can have a proper four-week rest period,” he said. “And I’m saying this in the interest of all. Players are exceptional, but they are not machines. Football players are like Formula One cars, if you actually use them too much, they just break.”

FIFA has been leading talks to discuss the new calendar and issues such as the continental championships and when clubs must release players for national team duty.

Agnelli also said it would be ideal to limit the potential maximum number of games for clubs to 43 per season.

“I want to make sure we are well heard when we craft the next international match calendar,” he said. “The clubs are the ones that truly invest and take the risks.”