Liverpool, Celtic held in Europa League

sportsPARIS: Liverpool conceded a late equaliser as they began their Europa League campaign with a 1-1 draw at Bordeaux, while 10-man Celtic drew 2-2 away to Ajax on Thursday. Back-to-back losses to West Ham and Manchester United in the English Premier League had increased the pressure on Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers but Adam Lallana’s sublime second-half goal in France looked destined to hand the Reds all three points in their Group B opener.

The visitors were pegged back nine minutes from time though as substitute Jussie slammed a loose ball beyond Simon Mignolet to salvage a point for Bordeaux. “We can always be disappointed to not have won after having led, but in European football, picking up a point away from home is never a bad result,” said Rodgers afterwards.

“If we win our home matches we can get out of the group, we’ve done it before,” he added, referencing Liverpool’s 2012-13 Europa League campaign. Celtic also surrendered a late goal in Amsterdam after being forced to play out the final 15 minutes a man down following the dismissal of Emilio Izaguirre.

Israeli midfielder Nir Biton silenced the home crowd with an eighth-minute opener before Viktor Fischer hauled Ajax level on 25 minutes. Celtic then regained the upper hand three minutes before the break as Mikael Lustig powered in a back-post header from a corner.

But Honduran international Izaguirre was sent off for a second yellow after taking out Anwar El Ghazi and Lasse Schone earned Ajax a share of the spoils six minutes from the end. “We have been through a tough period. This is a good start. Good defence and good organisation. The confidence will come. When we played 11 v 11, they didn’t have too many chances,” Celtic manager Ronny Deila told BT Sport.

The late setback was all the more frustrating for Deila’s side as group favourites Fenerbahce crashed to a 3-1 defeat at home to Norwegian outfit Molde. Borussia Dortmund made it 10 straight wins under new coach Thomas Tuchel after the Bundesliga leaders came from behind to beat Russian outfit FC Krasnodar 2-1 in Group C.

Dortmund, who came through two rounds of qualifying to reach the group phase, fell behind after just 12 minutes in Germany as Pavel Mamaev converted a Fedor Smolov cross. But Matthias Ginter equalised for the hosts right before half-time after heading in a cross from Park Joo-ho and the South Korean capped off his Dortmund debut in style with the winner three minutes into second-half stoppage time.

Elsewhere, Napoli thumped Club Brugge 5-0 in Group D as Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens scored twice apiece with Marek Hamsik also on target. Marseille made an encouraging start in Group F as they won 3-0 away to Dutch side Groningen through goals from Georges-Kevin N’Koudou, Lucas Ocampos and Romain Alessandrini.

Meanwhile, Celtic manager Ronny Deila hopes his side’s impressive Europa League performance against Ajax can kick-start their Scottish Premiership campaign. Deila’s team held the Dutch giants to a 2-2 draw in Amsterdam on Thursday despite being reduced to 10 men. It was a good end to a tough week for Deila’s side after they lost at Aberdeen to slip five points behind the Dons at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

The Scottish champions don’t have long to rest before they host fifth placed Dundee tomorrow, but Deila hopes the performance in the Netherlands gives his players a confidence boost to take into the match. “As a team we had a very good attitude and I’m very proud of the players. We have been through a tough period and there are many games left but this is a good start,” Deila said.

“Against Ajax we played well and created chances and defended as a team. For me it starts with a good attitude. “The boys showed me that they really want to fight. The confidence will come and we will get better and better.

“I think everybody knows that we can play good football and we are a good football team. But against Ajax we needed a good performance and we needed to get some confidence from our performance. “The players have shown a great attitude and shown they can bounce back. We now have to get ready for Sunday and start winning games in the league again as well.” –AFP


This article was published on 18/09/2015