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Europa League: Sevilla rekindle love affair; Inter patient

September 19, 2014 11:01 IST
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Sevilla, Europa

Luke Wilkshire of Feyenoord wins the header after Gerard Deulofeu, right, of Sevilla FC during the UEFA Europa League match. Photograph: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Sevilla's love affair with the Europa League was immediately rekindled as last season's champions and three-time winners began this year's group stage with a 2-0 home victory over Feyenoord on Thursday.

On-loan midfielder Gerard Deulofeu's set-pieces proved too hot to handle for Feyenoord as two of his first-half free kicks were turned home by Grzegorz Krychowiak and Stephane Mbia as a new-look Sevilla side comfortably cruised home.

Europe's second-tier competition, so often derided for lacking the sparkle of its Champions League cousin, was ushered back into action with some stand-out individual displays and a glut of goals across its opening 24 group games.

There have been numerous changes at Sevilla since they beat Benfica on penalties in Turin to lift the trophy in May, with some of last season's heroes departing for new challenges at more glamorous clubs.

Yet even without the likes of midfield playmaker Ivan Rakitic, who left for Barcelona, and left back Alberto Moreno, who joined Liverpool, Sevilla looked sharp and purposeful and well worth their Group G win.

Emphatic home wins

PAOK

Stefanos Athanasiadis of PAOK in action. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

There were hat-tricks from Dinamo Zagreb's El Arbi Hilal Soudani, PAOK Salonika captain Stefanos Athanasiadis and Steaua Bucharest's Claudiu Keseru, whose teams all enjoyed emphatic home wins.

Ex-European champions Inter Milan and PSV Eindhoven also got off to winning starts, while Napoli, whose manager Rafa Benitez was heavily criticised after his side failed to make it through a Champions League playoff, came back from a goal down to beat Sparta Prague 3-1 at the San Paolo.

Premier League Everton enjoyed a victorious return to the European stage after a five-year absence with a 4-1 home victory over VfL Wolfsburg, but Tottenham Hotspur were held to a drab 0-0 stalemate at Partizan Belgrade.

Among the five former European champions in this season's Europa League group stage, Steaua Bucharest made the most eye-catching start, thrashing AaB Aalborg 6-0 in Group J with Keseru scoring three goals in 12 second-half minutes.

The two other three-goal hauls both arrived in the first half.

Dinamo Zagreb's Soudani scored with two headers and a calmly-taken effort from close range in a 5-1 win over Romanians Astra to cap a superb week for Algeria forwards following Yacine Brahimi's hat-trick for Porto in the Champions League.

PAOK's Athanasiadis had wrapped up his hat-trick in 28 minutes as the Greek side beat Dinamo Minsk 6-1 in Group K.

Patient Inter

Inter Milan

Inter Milan's Danilo D'Ambrosio, centre, celebrates his goal with team mates. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Serie A's Inter had to be patient in Ukraine against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Group F before Danilo D'Ambrosio grabbed the only goal after 71 minutes, while PSV's Luuk de Jong scored a first-half penalty in a 1-0 home win over Estoril in Group E.

Napoli beat Sparta Prague in Group I thanks to a penalty from Gonzalo Higuain and two second-half goals from Belgium's Dries Mertens after Josef Husbauer had given the visitors an early lead.

Tottenham drew a blank at Partizan Belgrade with striker Harry Kane missing their best chance in the first minute, hitting the woodwork from eight metres after the hosts failed to clear a corner.

The match was soured however by reports of an anti-Semitic banner being displayed by the home fans.

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