Friday, 19 August 2011

Mixed fortunes for Spanish sides in Europa League

A victory, a draw and a defeat on Thursday evening wasn’t the greatest start to the Europa League for the Spanish sides involved, but all three will still harbour hopes of making it to the group stages next week.

Athletic Bilbao 0 Trabzonspor 0

Athletic suffered a disappointing draw in the first competitive match of Marcelo Bielsa’s reign. Things appeared to be going Athletic’s way when as early as the seventh minute the Turkish side were reduced to 10 men; Burak Yilmaz seeing red for a kick out at Iker Muniain.

Fernando Llorente had already gone agonisingly close in the first minute but it was to be a frustrating evening for the Spanish striker as he missed a host of chances. Athletic were also denied by some fine goalkeeping by Tolga Zengin who saved brilliantly from Markel Susaeta and Llorente in the second-half.

Trabzonspor remained dangerous on the break and Paulo Henrique nearly gave them an away goal but his delicate chip over Gorka Iraizoz landed
just wide.

Hannover 96 2 Sevilla 1

Sevilla also face an uphill struggle to get through to the group stages after losing 2-1 in Germany. Jan Schlaudraff put the home side in front after only five minutes with a calm low finish beyond Andres Palop.

Sevilla responded well and Alvaro Negredo nearly had them level on the half hour but Robert Zieler in the Hannover goal tipped his long-range deflected shot onto the post. The 2007 winners did get the crucial away goal minutes later after neat play from Jorge Coke and Negredo left Freddie Kanoute free to fire into an empty net. However, just as Sevilla were looking comfortable they fell behind again when a fine Hannover move was rounded off by a sweet finish from Schlaudraff, this time low across Palop into the far corner.

In a second-half of few chances Hannover’s Sergio Pinto came closest with a shot from distance but both sides seemed content with a scoreline
that leaves all very much to play for in Seville next week.

Atletico Madrid 2 Vitória Guimarães 0

In the only positive result for Spanish sides in Europe this week, Atleti took a firm grip of their tie with Vitória after two goal from Elias in the second-half.

The Brazilian who had been linked with Porto this week as part of the Falcao transfer showed he could have a big role to play at the Calderón this season with two fine finishes, the first a powerful header at the back post and the second a cool side-foot from the edge of the box. Both goals were set up by Adrián who again demonstrated that although he may lack a killer instinct in front of goal he can play a vital role in linking the play up front.

Among the other positives for Gregorio Manzano was the performance of Gabi in the midfield who already looks very comfortable in his new surroundings and also combined well with Thiago.

However, there may be some concern that the goals didn’t arrive until Vitória had been reduced to 10 men after Joao Paulo was sent off for a wild challenge on Adrián. The exclusion of Diego Forlan from the side could also be significant with the Uruguayan set to follow David De Gea and Kun Aguero as high-profile departures from Atleti this summer.

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