The third round of qualifying for this season’s Europa League got underway on Thursday evening with a boatload of first leg fixtures.
Wolves, Rangers and Aberdeen were all in action, as well as last season’s semi-finalists Eintracht Frankfurt, Serie A side Torino and Espanyol of La Liga.
Read on to see what you may have missed from Thursday’s games.
1. Wolves take control
Quite how Wolves’ historic return to European football will affect their domestic form remains to be seen but it’s been so far so good for them on the continent.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side took full control of their tie against Armenian side Pyunik Yerevan on Thursday, with goals from Matt Doherty, Raul Jimenez (x2) and Ruben Neves firing Wolves to a 4-0 win.
A convincing win in Armenia! ? pic.twitter.com/67Nql92b6n
— Wolves (@Wolves) August 8, 2019
A 6,370-mile round-trip is hardly the ideal preparation for their Premier League opener against Leicester City on Sunday but that didn’t seem to faze Espirito Santo, who fielded an almost full-strength side to make sure of the result.
With this tie all but in the bag already, at least he’ll be able to rotate for the second leg.
2. Rangers in driving seat despite five-minute wobble
With the number of qualifiers they’ve played over the past couple of years, it feels like Steven Gerrard has guided Rangers through more Europa League games than he has domestic ones since taking over last summer.
In what was, quite ridiculously, their fifth tie of this season’s competition so far, the Glaswegians put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat of what had the potential to be a difficult third-round qualifier against Danish outfit, FC Midtjylland.
— Rangers Football Club (@RangersFC) August 8, 2019
Alfredo Morelos headed Rangers in front shortly before half-time, while Joe Aribo and Nikola Katic opened up a 3-0 lead with quickfire goals after the break.
And despite having a five-minute wobble which saw Midtjylland close the gap to 3-2, Gerrard’s men were able to steady themselves via a cool finish from Scott Arfield in the 70th minute.
Taking four away goals back to Ibrox next week is probably more than Gerrard could have asked for prior to kick-off.
3. Dons have it all to do
While Rangers were flying the flag for Scotland, Aberdeen didn’t have it so easy, going down 2-0 away from home against 2016/17 Croatian champions, Rijeka.
Two goals in the second half leave Aberdeen with it all to do in the 2nd leg. pic.twitter.com/BN8gArXbu7
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) August 8, 2019
The Dons had actually beaten Rijeka 3-0 in the second qualifying round four years ago but had no such luck this time around, with second-half strikes from Antonio-Mirko Colak and Robert Muric undoing the stern defensive work put in by Derek McInnes’ side before the break.
Aberdeen have more than enough firepower to turn things around at Pittodrie next week but with attempting to re-assert their place in the top two of the Scottish Premiership is also high on their agenda this season, it could be a tough balancing act.
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4. 2o18/19 semi-finalists still on course
It’s been a rough summer for Eintracht Frankfurt. Sure, they’ve completed the permanent signing of Kevin Trapp and brought Sebastian Rode back to the club, but losing Luka Jovic and Sebastien Haller is going to hurt, even if it was expected.
Die Adler kick off their domestic season this Sunday with a DFB-Pokal tie against SV Waldhof but in Europe, there’s no sign of them missing their big summer departures so far.
— Eintracht Frankfurt (@Eintracht) August 8, 2019
After beating Flora 4-2 on aggregate in the previous round, Frankfurt travelled to Liechtenstein to take on minnows Vaduz and to say it was a breeze is, well, an understatement.
Frankfurt had a massive 26 shots and completed 552 passes to just 190 for Vaduz, heading back to Germany with a convincing 5-0 lead which should take a little bit of pressure off Adi Hutter’s squad.
5. Big guns take control
They may not be the biggest clubs in their respective cities but Espanyol and Torino are certainly big guns when it comes to this particular round of Europa League qualifying. On Thursday, they showed just why.
Facundo Ferreyra, Didac Vila and Matias Vargas were all on target as Espanyol pulled off an impressive 3-0 win away to Swiss side, Luzern, and with no domestic action until the end of next week, that’s a nice cushion to take back to the Catalan region.
Per a tu, Dani!
— RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (@RCDEspanyol) August 8, 2019
Torino fared even better than that, with former Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd target Andrea Belotti firing a double to help the Italian’s to a 5-0 home win over Kazakh side, Shakhter FC. Torino notched 24 shots in what was an incredibly comfortable victory and should be able to make it job done in straight-forward fashion next week.
6. Dutch delight
Another giant in this round of qualifying is 15-time Dutch champions and two-time Uefa Cup winners, Feyenoord.
De Stadionclub made light work of a home tie against Georgian outfit Dinamo Tbilisi, cooking up a comfortable 4-0 home win thanks to goals from Luis Sinisterra, Davit Kobouri, Steven Berghuis and former Swansea winger, Luciano Narsingh.
— Feyenoord Rotterdam (@Feyenoord) August 8, 2019
That will be music to the ears of manager Jaap Stam, who had to watch his side labour to a poor 2-2 draw against city rivals Sparta in their Eredivisie opener. The chance to rest some players for next week’s second leg is one he’s not likely to pass up as he looks to keep his squad fresh to challenge the likes of PSV and Ajax on home soil.