Europa League round-up: Charlie Austin fires Southampton to victory
Inter Milan shocked by Hapoel Be’er Sheva, as Zenit St Petersburg stage remarkable comeback
Charlie Austin of Southampton argues with teammate Dusan Tadic over who is on penalty duty. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Southampton made a winning start to their Europa League campaign and gave Claude Puel his first win as manager with a convincing 3-0 defeat of Sparta Prague.
They remain in pursuit of their first Premier League victory of the season but demonstrated their potential with a fine performance at St Mary’s to take first place in Group K.
Two goals from the recalled Charlie Austin and another from substitute Jay Rodriguez as he continued his comeback from a career-threatening knee injury - sealed victory on the night.
Making only his second start of the season — Austin had been expected to benefit from the departure of Graziano Pelle to China’s Shandong Luneng — the striker won a fifth-minute penalty when his low right-wing cross struck unlucky Sparta defender Costa Nhamoinesu’s elbow.
A brief argument with Dusan Tadic over who would take it ensued, before he confidently struck into the bottom left corner beyond Tomas Koubek.
It was in the 26th minute when, following positive build-up play from Shane Long and Cuco Martina on the right wing, the former sent a low cross to Austin. The striker dived low to head into the back of the net, but a second goal was rightly disallowed after he strayed just offside.
Just two minutes later Martina’s initial cross was blocked, but after he recollected possession he brilliantly sent another ball with the outside of his boot towards Austin, who from directly in front of goal calmly nodded inside the right post via Koubek’s hand.
Substitute Rodriguez added a third deep in the second half - he played a one-two with the classy Long, recollecting possession in front of goal in the area, and comfortably finishing towards the bottom right to secure the three points needed from what might be the easiest of their six Group K games.
Three-time European champions Inter Milan were humbled at home by Hapoel Be’er Sheva, who gave Celtic a scare in their Champions League play-off before the Scots scraped through 5-4 on aggregate last month.
The Israelis, making their Europa League group stage debut this season, were 2-0 winners as Miguel Virot and Maor Bar Buzaglo scored in the San Siro in Group K.
Fellow big names Ajax fared better in Greece where they came from behind to beat Panathiniakos 2-1 in Group G in a match which finished nine men playing 10.
Marcus Berg gave the hosts a fifth-minute lead but on-loan Chelsea forward Betrand Traore equalised before half-time and after Jairo Riedeweld scored the winner in the 67th minute things went downhill for the Greek side.
Ivan Ivanov was sent off for a second bookable offence — a fate which later befell Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech — before Mubarak Wakaso was shown a red card for violent conduct in added time.
Zenit St Petersburg staged a dramatic comeback in their Europa League Group D clash with Maccabi Tel-Aviv, scoring four goals in the final 14 minutes to win 4-3.
The Russian club were trailing after goals from Haris Medunjanin (two) and Vidar Orn Kjartansson but Aleksandr Kokorin’s scrambled finish gave them hope and the sending off of Eli Dasa nine minutes from time offered a lifeline.
Dasa’s second yellow card led to Mauricio scoring via an indirect free-kick, Giuliano then equalised before Luka Djordjevic headed home in the second minute of added time.
In Group F Sassuolo marked their Europa League debut with a 3-0 win over seasoned campaigners Athletic Bilbao thanks to goals from Pol Lirola, Gregoire Defrel and Matteo Politano in the final half-hour.
Rapid Vienna also secured maximum points in that group with a 3-2 win over Racing Genk.
In Group A Ukrainian debutants Zorya were only denied a landmark first win by Fenerbahce defender Simon Kjaer’s goal in the fifth minute of added time.
Group B’s early pace-setters are APOEL and Olympiacos after wins over Astana (2-1) and Young Boys (1-0) respectively.
Anderlecht gained an early advantage in Group C as they beat FK Qabala 3-1 while rivals Mainz and St Etienne could only draw 1-1 with Robert Beric snatching an 88th-minute equaliser for the French club.
Diego Perotti scored an early penalty for Roma but they were pegged back by Marek Bakos’ goal for Viktoria Pilzen in Group E, which is topped by Austria Vienna, who held on for 3-2 win over Astra Girgiu after Lukas Rotpuller’s red card with 11 minutes to go.