The Pride and Passion of the UEFA Europa League returned on Thursday night for another mouth-watering evening of twists and turns across the continent. Thursday’s 24 matches racked up a stunning 77 goals, just four shy of the record for a UEFA Europa League matchday.
Sassuolo had won all three of their home matches in UEFA competition by three goals to nil. The best that Rapid had ever managed in nine trips to Italy was a solitary draw. So when the Austrians found themselves two goals down in Modena with just four minutes to go, everyone knew that the game was up. Even when Matej Jelic pulled one back, it appeared merely a consolation but, right on full-time, Rapid completed the most unlikely of salvage jobs as another sub, Giorgi Kvilitaia, converted a dramatic last-gasp equaliser.
The locals celebrated in style in the Belgian capital after Anderlecht’s stunning 6-1 demolition of Bundesliga club Mainz. The trip from Mainz to Brussels was only around 300km but the visitors will have wished that they never bothered as their rampant hosts proved anything but humble. On course to make it through their sixth UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group stage campaign, Anderlecht are the toast of the town.
The 35-year-old made history on Thursday as he became the first player to score five goals in a single Europa League match. The veteran’s unprecedented haul included a hat-trick of penalties and sealed a 5-3 victory over Genk. The win not only avenged Athletic’s defeat by the Belgians in matchday three but dragged the Basque club to joint-top in Group F.
Fenerbahce fans made all the noise in Manchester last month only to see their side drowned out by a rampant United performance at Old Trafford. Back in Istanbul on Thursday, the locals were as boisterous as ever, their deafening support inspiring the hosts from the outset, and was rewarded with two sensational strikes, first from Moussa Sow and then from Jeremain Lens, as Fener secured a well-deserved first win over an English club since 2008.