Friday, November 10, 2023

Premier League in Europe

Manchester United and Newcastle are both at the bottom of their Champions League qualification groups after losses this week. The Red Devils 4-3 loss at Copenhagen was blamed upon poor officiating by embattled Manchester United Manager Eric ten Hag. That excuse doesn’t tell the whole story of  a galling loss to a lesser opponent which hadn’t won a Champions League match in seven years. Rasmus Hojlund had a brace inside of 30 minutes to put ten Hag’s club on course for an expected victory. Marcus Rashford, however, was assessed a red card to put the English team down a man. Copenhagen then rallied to knot the score, the equalizer coming in first half stoppage time via penalty kick after a Harry Maguire handball. As well as Maguire is capable of playing at times, he so often seems to be at the center of unfortunate moments for the Red Devils. Manchester United then received their own penalty kick opportunity which Bruno Fernandes converted to retake the lead in the 69th minute. Defensive lapses, however, by Diogo Dalot and Raphael Varane led to two late goals for the Danes. The dagger for the Red Devils came off the foot of Copenhagen’s 17-year-old Swedish midfielder Roony Bardghi. The pressure is mounting on Eric ten Hag whose post-match references to officiating issues and the impressive fighting spirit of his team were largely dismissed by those who saw his club essentially lose the same game twice.

Newcastle lost in more straightforward fashion as it dropped a second consecutive group match to Borussia Dortmund. The 2-0 loss in Germany followed a 1-0 loss to the Germans at St. James Park. As a result, Dortmund sit atop the group and Newcastle is looking up at the German side as well as AC Milan and PSG in a highly competitive group.

Manchester City and Arsenal took care of business as expected. The Citizens coasted 3-0 margin by Young Boys at the Etihad. Erling Haaland showed no signs of his ankle issue as he scored a brace. Arsenal defeated Sevilla 2-0 on goals by Leandro Trossard and Bukayo Saka. Both City and Arsenal lead their qualification groups.

In Europa League action on Thursday, Liverpool was shocked at Toulouse by a 3-2 margin in a match that was nothing like Liverpool’s lopsided 5-1 win over the French squad just weeks ago. Liverpool rescued a point with a late goal against inferior opposition in Luton Town last weekend. The Reds tried that script again when Diogo Jota scored in the 89th minute in France but an even later equalizer by Jarell Quansah was disallowed due to a handball by Alexis Mac Allister in the buildup. Toulouse moved to within two points of group leader Liverpool.

West Ham avenged their earlier loss to Olympiacos in Greece by defeating their Europa League foe 1-0 at London Stadium. Lucas Paqueta’s goal put West Ham in position to top their qualification group with one point from their final two group matches. In a match that was tense from the start, Paqueta’s goal was ruled  good by VAR after an on-field offside decision.

Brighton’s day in the Europa League was far less stressful than its fellow Premier League brethren. On loan Barcelona youngster Ansu Fati scored in the 14th minute for the Seagulls and Simon Andringa provided the second half insurance goal. Brighton can clinch a place in the tournament’s next round with a win at AEK Athens in their next match.

Ollie Watkins scored in the 84th minute to lead Aston Villa past AZ Alkmaar in Europa Conference League play. Watkins and friends moved level on points in their group with Legia Warsaw which defeated Aston Villa earlier in group play.  

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