Lorenzo Pellegrini scored twice as Roma came from behind to overwhelm CSKA-Sofia 5-1 and make a statement of intent in their UEFA Europa Conference League group stage opener.
Slavia Praha, Copenhagen and Bodø/Glimt were other teams to catch the eye – all three earning 3-1 victories – but Tottenham, Basel and AZ Alkmaar were among the sides held to a draw first time out.
UEFA.com rounds up the Thursday night action.
José Mourinho’s charges blew away ten-man CSKA-Sofia to begin their group-stage campaign in style. Graham Carey lashed the Bulgarians ahead early on, but Pellegrini’s sublime chip and Stephan El Shaarawy’s thumping effort turned the tide before the break. Pellegrini’s second made the game safe and, after Yanic Wildschut saw red for a second booking, Gianluca Mancini and Tammy Abraham sealed Roma’s sixth straight victory in all competitions this season.
José Mourinho, Roma coach: “We didn’t play well. We are really creating a team, but today I didn’t like our game. Our bench today was a super bench that allowed me to do something even if we got to half-time with a negative result.”
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg secured Spurs a point in a pulsating contest. Lucas Moura’s shot deflected in off Loïc Bade early on, but Rennes roared back and deservedly levelled in the 23rd minute through Flavien Tait. The French side dominated thereafter and went ahead when Gaëtan Laborde pounced on Pierluigi Gollini’s parry, only for Højbjerg to prod in a 76th-minute equaliser.
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Tottenham midfielder: “We dominated some parts of the second half and were trying our best to push for the goal, but at some points we were a little bit on the back foot. We got a point and it is something to build on but also something to improve on.”
Union’s 20-year wait for a return to European competition ended in disappointment in soggy Prague. Having finished the first half a goal and a man down, they nonetheless glimpsed hope when Kevin Behrens levelled in the second half, but Jan Kuchta and Ivan Schranz struck in the closing ten minutes to secure a 3-1 win for Slavia.
Alexander Bah, Slavia defender: “It was a hard-fought win for us. Union played very well, even when down to ten men. We know they have a very good team with fantastic fans, but near the end we could see they were tired and we kept going and scored two goals.”
Best of the rest
- Danish international Jonas Wind took his goal tally for the season to eight with a double in Copenhagen’s 3-1 win at Slovan Bratislava.
- Bodø/Glimt were the only team from among eight newcomers to a UEFA club competition group stage to kick off with a victory – and they did so with some panache, scoring three times after the break to sink Zorya Luhansk.
- Randers, also making their group stage bow, came from behind twice to earn a draw with AZ Alkmaar.
- The group stage actually started on Tuesday with Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s Stipe Perica claiming the honour of scoring the first goal in this phase of the competition.
All the Matchday 1 results
Group A: Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-1 Alashkert, HJK Helsinki 0-2 LASK
Group B: Flora Tallinn 0-1 Gent, Anorthosis Famagusta 0-2 Partizan
Group C: Roma 5-1 CSKA-Sofia, Bodø/Glimt 3-1 Zorya Luhansk
Group D: Jablonec 1-0 CFR Cluj, Randers 2-2 AZ Alkmaar
Group E: Maccabi Haifa 0-0 Feyenoord, Slavia Praha 3-1 Union Berlin
Group F: Slovan Bratislava 1-3 Copenhagen, Lincoln Red Imps 0-2 PAOK
Group G: Rennes 2-2 Tottenham, Mura 0-2 Vitesse
Group H: Kairat Almaty 0-0 Omonoia, Qarabağ 0-0 Basel