Winning starts for Arsenal, United in Europa
Arsenal and Manchester United both relied on a teenager to get their Europa League campaigns off to a winning start yesterday.
Arsenal, last year’s finalists, saw 18-year-old winger Bukayo Saka score one goal and set up the other two in a 3-0 away victory over 10-man Eintracht Frankfurt. And 17-year-old Mason Greenwood became United’s youngest ever scorer in European competition when he netted the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Astana at Old Trafford.
Sevilla, the most successful team in Europe’s second-tier competition, also opened with a 3-0 victory at Qarabag while Kevin Bua struck twice to lead Basel to a 5-0 win over Krasnodar in Group C.
Another English Premier League (EPL) club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, extended its winless streak by losing 1-0 to Braga at Molineux.
In a major upset, competition newcomer Wolfsberg routed Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0 away in Group J.
Arsenal manager Unai Emery started a trio of academy graduates, with Emile Smith Rowe, Saka, and Joe Willock forming a youthful attack together with Aubameyang. It was the 20-year-old Willock who opened the scoring in the 38th with a deflected right-foot shot from inside the area, which bounced off the crossbar and into the net.
Second Yellow Card
Frankfurt chased an equaliser before midfielder Dominik Kohr was ejected 11 minutes from time after picking his second yellow card for a tackle on Saka.
The 18-year-old Saka – who, like Smith Rowe, was making his first start of the season – doubled the lead with a precise left-footer from outside the area in the 85th before setting up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to finish it off a couple minutes later.
While Arsenal looked sharp up front, their defence look shaky throughout the game, and Frankfurt missed a number of good chances to score, in part, thanks to a couple of good saves from backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.
Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka also hit the bar from a free kick.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s youth also impressed, but the Man United manager had to wait till the 73rd minute for Greenwood to score with a shot between the legs of Astana goalkeeper Nenad Eric. Two 19-year-olds, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong, also started for the Red Devils.
Rarely used midfielder Fred was also given his first start of the season and hit the bar three minutes into the Group L game.
The three-time European champions are back in the second-tier competition after finishing sixth in the EPL last season.
The winners of the Europa League earn a place in the next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Yesterday’s Europa League results:
APOEL Nicosia 3-4 Dudelange
Qarabag 0-3 Sevilla
Dynamo Kiev 1-0 Malmo
Copenhagen 1-0 Lugano
Basel 5-0 Krasnodar
Getafe 1-0 Trabzonspor
Lask 1-0 Rosenborg
PSV 3-0 Sporting CP
Cluj 2-1 Lazio
Rennes 1-1 Celtic
Frankfurt 0-3 Arsenal
Standard Liege 2-0 Vitoria
Porto 2-1 Young Boys
Rangers 1-0 Feyenoord
Espanyol 1-1 Ferencvaros
Ludogorets 5-1 CSKA Moscow
Gent 3-2 St Etienne
Wolfburg 3-1 Olexandria
M’Gladbach 0-4 Wolfsberger
Roma 4-0 Basaksehir
Slovan Bratislava 4-2 Besiktas
Wolves 0-1 Braga
Man United 1-0 Astana
Beograd 2-2 Alkmaar