Another matchday of UEFA Europa League action has been and gone, and for the most part, there was a lot to enjoy. The variety and sheer volumes of teams that compete in the competition always allows for a great deal of action, to the point where it’s pretty much impossible not to come across at least one or two barnstorming games on any given Thursday night.
Yesterday was no different, especially when it came to the English clubs. While we all know that Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United have had their fair share of issues throughout the course of the competition, and the season itself so far, they’re all still amongst the favourites with the bookmakers in regards to who will actually walk away with that beautiful trophy when the final is held next year in Gdansk.
Strong & stable?
Last night the action began with Manchester United and Wolves, both of whom faced tricky away trips. The Red Devils went to the Netherlands in order to face AZ Alkmaar, whereas Nuno’s men travelled to Turkey. Neither side was really able to grab a foothold in their respective games, which is to be expected given the nature of their opposition.
However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will almost certainly be the more frustrated of the two managers as United couldn’t break AZ down and were only able to leave with a point. That still gives them four points from their first two games in the group which is hardly a poor return, but at the same time, you’d think they would’ve wanted to showcase themselves in a big way after a few questionable weeks of action in the Premier League.
For Wolves, they were forced to bide their time and overcome some odd officiating at Vodafone Park, until they finally make the breakthrough courtesy of defender Willy Boly in the 93rd minute. That 1-0 win brings them to within just a point of the top two qualification spots, in a group that isn’t exactly turning out how most fans and pundits were anticipating.
Gunners continue to thrive
Then came the turn of Arsenal, who have settled pretty nicely into their Europa League campaign this year. They’ve been forced to recover pretty quickly after the disappointment of losing in the final to Chelsea, and after two group stage games, they already look like contenders once more.
They stuck four goals past Standard Liege in a comprehensive 4-0 win, reaffirming themselves as one of the favourites to win it all. If they can win their next two games against Vitoria SC, they’ll surely secure their passage into the knockout stages.
Further north in Scotland, Celtic fans were celebrating a comfortable revenge win over Cluj that kept them in the hunt for the top two. Rangers were unable to replicate that success as they fell to Young Boys, bringing all four teams in their group to three points after two games.
Fans will only have to wait until the 24th in order to sample their next dose of Europa League action as the group stage prepares to reach the halfway mark.