Football Features

‘El Bufalo’ rampages on as Wolves wonderkid opens account: Europa League qualifying action you may have missed

By Ben Green

Published: 22:05, 15 August 2019

It was an intense night of Europa League third round qualifiers with heartache and jubilation across the board in equal measure.

Wolverhampton Wanderers made light work of FC Pyunik across their two legs and will face an ominous play-off tie against Torino, who cruised past Shakhtyor Soligorsk earlier this evening.

Elsewhere, Rangers comfortably made their way past Midtjylland, with Steven Gerrard’s side set to face Polish club Legia Warsaw in the final phase of these preliminary rounds before reaching the group stages.

Finally, on these shores Aberdeen were humbled by Croatian club HNK Rijeka, with the Dons not being aided by an early red card; Rijecki bijeli will take on Belgian side Gent in their respective play-off round.

There were a whole host of third round qualifiers to fill your boots this evening, and we’ve picked out some memorable moments you may have missed…

1. Fledgling Feyenoord

In the earlier matches Feyenoord locked horns with Georgian outfit Dinamo Tbilisi, knowing that Felic Vicente’s side would only advance if they managed to overturn a four-goal deficit from the first leg at De Kuip.

As such, Feyenoord manager Jaap Stam took the opportunity to blood in some of the club’s younger players, deploying three teenagers in his starting XI (Wout Burger, Lutsharel Geertruida and Orkun Kokcu), which is the first time De club aan de Maas have put out a triumvirate of players below the age of 20 since 2010.

Among the names to have featured in that line-up nine years ago were Georginio Wijnaldum, Stefan de Vrij and Bruno Martins Indi, so the writing could very well be on the wall for the trio of tyros who played out a commendable 1-1 draw at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena tonight.

2. El Bufalo’s rampage goes on

Rangers’ mercurial Colombian forward Alfredo Morelos has only played eight matches across all competitions this season, but he’s already found the back of the net nine times, enhancing that sumptuous purple patch with the opening and third goal at Ibrox this evening.

His on-field mood can often appear more proverbial bull – or perhaps Buffalo would be more apt here – in a china shop, but his goalscoring ability is that of finesse, with his opening finish this evening an exquisite piece of improvisation.

As Sheyi Ojo surged forward, the Liverpool loanee sent in a low cross which found the path of the South American, whose shimmy almost dismissively took Midtjylland defender Rasmus Nicolaisen out of the equation before he struck past Jesper Hansen, and he would be at it again just after the interval to complete his brace.

3. Fiery Funso

In a bid to prolong their European adventure Aberdeen sought to beef up their midfield with the acquisition of Funso Ojo from Scunthorpe United in the summer, but the Belgian newcomer has thus far proven more reckless than resilient, getting sent off for two yellow cards this evening, with both bookings brandished in only the 20th minute.

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The 27-year-old defensive midfielder was brought in to add more bite to Derek McInnes’ side, but his have been more Great White than tiddler so far, picking up five bookings in the six games he has featured; and from the minute he was sent packing tonight at Pittodrie, it was curtains.

In truth, Aberdeen were already dead and buried before the dismissal, with the Dandies three down on aggregate as the referee waved crimson in Ojo’s direction. This simply turned the screw that little bit tighter as HNK Rijeka advanced with relative ease.

4. Like father like son

The son of Chelsea legend and former Dutch striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Nigel Hasselbaink, opened his European account this evening, and what an important goal it proved to be as he helped Israeli club Hapoel Be’er Sheva edge IFK Norrkoping 4-2 across the two legs.

Hasselbaink, 28, has played for the likes of PSV Eindhoven, Hamilton Academical, St Mirren and St Johnstone across his career, featuring 12 times in Europa League Qualifying matches, but this was his first goal in continental club football.

He had initially teed up Niv Zrihan for the opening goal before getting his name on the scoresheet himself, making the scoreline 3-1 on aggregate with 20 minutes to go before his teammates got the job over the line, where he will now return to his homeland for the play-off phases as Hapoel Be’er Sheva face Feyenoord in the next round.

5. Neto off the mark

In his debut game for Wolverhampton Wanderers, Pedro Neto has scored his first goal, breaching FC Pyunik’s defence less than 10 minutes after the restart, and it was a well-wrought goal from Nuno Espirito Santo’s side with all three of his summer signings linking up to break the deadlock.

As Jesus Vallejo collected the ball from deep he launched a timely upfield ball over the FC Pyunik defence to set Patrick Cutrone racing through on goal before he bided his time and delivered a delectable cross into Neto, who duly converted.

The teenage forward joined the club alongside Bruno Jordao from Braga earlier this summer and has immediately impressed, giving Espirito Santo plenty of food for thought in his managerial selections, with his attacking line now replete with an embarrassment of riches.

6. From futsal to Europa League

Max Kilman made history last season as he became the first former England futsal international to play in the Premier League, and he was handed a start this evening in an extremely varying defence for Espirito Santo.

The 22-year-old, formerly of Maidenhead United, made up a central defensive trio consisting of Conor Coady, who was educated in Liverpool’s esteemed footballing institution and Vallejo, an ex-student of Real Zaragoza.

It’s safe to say the three defenders all had different upbringings in the sport, but tonight they worked in unison to keep a clean sheet and set up a mouthwatering play-off bout against Turin giants Torino.

7. Gibbs-White joins the party

It was an evening of celebration for Wolves with goalscoring accounts opening, partnerships flourishing, debutants thriving and fringe players making considerable noise, but the icing on this cake was without question Morgan Gibbs-White finally getting his first goal for Wolves.

The talented teenager is the academy gem admired at Molineux and highly-rated by Espirito Santo, with over 50 appearances already under his belt, so it will be a weight off his shoulders to finally bag that all-important first goal.

It will be a moment the 19-year-old will never forget as he timed his run to perfection before converting a precisely weighted cross from Neto, making it two on the night and six on aggregate at the time.

8. PSV fire first blank for a year

PSV Eindhoven failed to score at the Philips Stadion for the first time since August 2018, making it a year since Mark van Bommel last saw his side fail to breach the opposition net on home turf.

It mattered little on the night as the goalless stalemate against Haugesund was enough to see them through having triumphed 1-0 in the first leg, but this was a match bordering far too close with potential upset than Boeren would have hoped.

Van Bommel will now take his side to Cyprus to clash with Apollon Limassol, who eliminated FK Austria Wien 5-2 on aggregate, with the Dutchman hoping for a more comfortable two legs before this habitual European club can take their place among the big hitters in the group stages.

9. Rangers telepathy 

Gerrard needn’t have worried about sending out any other player bar Morelos and Ojo, as the duo combined to score all three of the Glasgow club’s goals this evening, with the former notching two and providing one, while the latter netted one and provided two.

The opener involved Ojo galloping down the wing before laying it on a plate for Morelos, while the Colombian would later reciprocate that service, collecting the ball infield before drifting out wide and picking out the Liverpool youngster.

The final goal again came from some neat work on the touchline by Ojo before another left-footed cross was directed in from close range by Morelos, making that a combined six contributions from the devastating duo.

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