The Europa League group stage is just around the corner, as teams from across the continent attempt to secure their place in the big time. Last night’s first legs certainly gave us a pretty good indication as to which clubs might be progressing from the playoff round, but of course, we’ll have to wait until Thursday in order to find our for sure.
Wolves went to Turin in order to take on Torino, who play in Serie A. Both sides finished seventh in their respective leagues so, as you can probably imagine, there was a lot of intrigue as to how the two may stack up together.
Stand up and be counted
After a pretty cagey first half Wolves were able to make the breakthrough just two minutes before half time, with an own goal stemming from a Saiss header giving them the advantage. As the second half began it was clear to see that Nuno’s men were gradually building some confidence, and they were able to prove that after doubling their advantage.
Adama Traore did some great work down the right flank, as he did against Manchester United, before laying the ball off to Diogo Jota who slotted home. Torino pulled one back not too long after through De Silvestri, before a wonderful Raul Jimenez solo goal restored Wolves’ two goal advantage.
A late penalty which was converted by Andrea Belotti, gives Torino some hope heading into the second leg at Molineux, although they’ll still need to score at least twice in order to stand any chance of qualification.
Over in Scotland things were a little bit more simple for Celtic, who were coming off the back of a really poor Champions League exit at the hands of Cluj. They spent the first 45 minutes trying to figure AIK out, before James Forrest, who is going to be a huge player for the club this season, finally gave them the lead three minutes into the second half.
Odsonne Edouard made it two with around 15 minutes remaining, ensuring that the Scottish Premiership champions will head to Sweden with all the confidence in the world next week, which is exactly what they needed.
Rangers played out an intriguing 0-0 draw with Legia Warsaw in their first leg, whereas Linfield surprised a lot of people by securing a 3-2 first leg victory over Qarabag.
All in all it was a really strong night for the British clubs in Europe, which isn’t a sentence we’ve been able to include Scotland and Northern Ireland in over the last few years. When you combine that with the fact that all four finalists from the UCL and UEL last season were from England, it seems as if the British Isles is starting to become a real force within the landscape of the European game once again.
Whether or not they can maintain it is the big question.