Villarreal, Real Sociedad and Athletic Club de Bilbao got their Europa League group stage campaigns underway this evening. I take a look back at the three games.
Villarreal were the first Spanish team to get their group stage campaign underway, hosting Astana at the Estadio de la Ceramica in one of the early kick offs.
They were the better side in the first half and took the lead through Nicola Sansone, slotting the ball home after Jaume Costa’s long ball.
They did have a scare in the second half however when the visitors from Kazakhstan levelled things up through Yuriy Logvinenko’s bullet header. But two goals in two minutes with quarter of an hour remaining from Cedric Bakambu’s sublime finish and Denis Cheryshev’s tap in ensured that the Yellow Submarine would collect all three points.
The win sees them go top of Group A ahead of Slavia Prague who also picked up three points, beating Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0. Next up for Villarreal is a trip to Israel to face Maccabi in two weeks time.
In the later set of games, the two Basque representatives of La Liga in the UEL began their respective tournaments.
Real Sociedad had the supposedly easier tie as they faced Rosenborg at the Anoeta however the Norwegian champions weren’t to be taken lightly.
Any pre match nerves or doubts in the mind of the La Real players though were dismissed very early on as Diego Llorente and David Zurutuza put them 2-0 up inside ten minutes.
An own goal from Jorgen Skjelvic then made it three before half time with Llorente getting his second 13 minutes from time to give Sociedad a comfortable 3 points.
The big scoreline wasn’t enough to see them go top of Group L however as Zenit ran out 5-0 winners over Vardar Skopje. The top two meet on Matchday 2 in Russia.
Finally, Athletic Bilbao also played their opening game in the tournament but they were the only Spanish side not to collect 3 points after a goalless draw at Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin.
Iker Muniain had their best chance of a tepid 90 minutes but he could only put the ball wide when through on goal.
Next up for Athletic they welcome Zorya Luhansk to the San Mames, the Ukrainians losing 2-0 to Swedish side Oestersunds in their opening game.