The UEFA Europa League group stage got underway last night, and for the most part, it was a pretty entertaining evening of action all around. Teams from all across Europe (and we mean all across), got their campaigns started as we begin the long and arduous trip towards the final in Gdansk next year.
The Scottish teams had a mixed start to their respective tenures in the competition this season, although when we say mixed, you could certainly redefine that as ‘positive’. Celtic were able to pick up a 1-1 draw against a solid Rennes side in what signified a pretty decent step forward for them, whereas Rangers defeated Feyenoord to reaffirm the belief that they could actually do some damage in the Europa League this season.
As reported by The Guardian and BBC, though, the real story came with the English clubs as Manchester United, Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers all set off on an adventure that they hope will conclude in Poland next May.
Arsenal got the action underway in Germany, as they were able to put Eintracht Frankfurt to the sword with a 3-0 win that kind of flattered them a little bit. The hosts looked really good at points and while the Gunners always looked in control, there were a few nervy moments as they continued to invite shot after shot from them without much of a return.
Willock was able to give Arsenal the lead and the Premier League side held on tight to that until the final moments, when Saka introduced himself to the European stage with a fine effort. Aubameyang ensured that the win was signed, sealed and delivered, as Arsenal look ahead to a bright future in the Europa League for the third consecutive season.
For Manchester United, however, it’s safe to say that they looked a little bit distracted against Astana. It was a less than inspiring performance to say the least, with a Greenwood strike being the only goal to separate the two teams on the night at Old Trafford.
Wolves were unable to follow in the footsteps of their Premier League counterparts in another 8pm kickoff, as they fell to a 1-0 loss against Braga. The Portuguese side have a lot of experience within their ranks and know what it takes to win at this level, but there are no excuses for Nuno Espirito Santo’s men.
They should’ve really taken the game to Braga and while they did at points, it was too little too late. There was no consistent rhythm to their game and while Cutrone came close, close just isn’t good enough at this level.
So all in all, for the British sides, it was a bit of a mixed bag of an evening. Wolves have a tough task on their hands if they want to bounce back, whereas with Arsenal and United, we’re just interested to see what their priority is going to be this season.
Will it be the top four, or making a real push for the Europa League crown?