Brighton were taught a harsh lesson on their Europa League debut as Greek champions AEK Athens ran out 3-2 winners after a pulsating encounter at the Amex Stadium.
Substitute Ezequiel Ponce struck the winner on the counter attack six minutes from the end of normal time as Roberto De Zerbi’s side failed to heed the signs after falling behind twice previously in the first half.
Joao Pedro equalised from the penalty spot in the first period then again in the second, both times after VAR had intervened in Brighton’s favour.
The hosts had the better of the play but they lacked the clinical edge of AEK, who scored with two excellent finishes from set-pieces. The first goal was a superb header from Djibril Sidibe, followed by a sliding finish from Mijat Gacinovic as Brighton were undone by nerves and their own naivety.
Ireland’s teenage sensation Evan Ferguson not even included in the matchday squad due to a minor injury.
Elsewhere, an own goal by Backa Topola’s Nemanja Petrovic helped West Ham United recover from a goal down to clinch a 3-1 home win over the Serbian side in a Europa League Group A match on Thursday.
Despite dominating ball possession and 15 attempts in the first half, West Ham were unable to break the deadlock before halftime against competition debutants who are playing European football for just the second time.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when midfielder Petar Stanic gave Backa a shock lead after the break as he capitalised on an error by West Ham defence and made it 1-0 after a solo run.
But Backa defender Petrovic failed to protect their advantage when he scored an own goal in the 66th minute before West Ham midfielder Mohammed Kudus scored for the London side with a header and substitute Tomas Soucek sealed the win.
Ajax Amsterdam squandered a 2-0 lead at home against Olympique de Marseille to draw 3-3 as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck twice for the visitors.
Rangers beat Real Betis 1-0 with a second-half goal by Senegal forward Abdallah Sima, while Sporting came from a goal down at Austria’s Sturm Graz to claim a late 2-1 victory.
Atalanta’s Charles De Ketelaere and Ederson scored in the second half to secure a 2-0 win for the Serie A side against Polish champions Rakow Czestochowa.
Sloppy Aston Villa crashed to a chaotic Europa Conference League defeat at Legia Warsaw.
Ernest Muci’s second-half winner spoiled Villa’s debut in the competition as Legia pulled off a deserved 3-2 victory in Poland.
Pawel Wszolek and Muci had twice given Legia a first-half lead only for Jhon Duran and Lucas Digne to peg them back.
Muci pounced six minutes into the second half and Villa never recovered.