Fulham, Birmingham kick-start Euro campaigns
Fulham and Birmingham City both got their Europa League campaigns up and running with wins on the road on Thursday, while a late equaliser for Udinese denied Celtic in Glasgow.
Martin Jol’s Fulham had gone eight games without a win in all competitions before travelling to Denmark for a tricky-looking tie against Odense.
However, Andrew Johnson continued his excellent European form this season by putting the Cottagers ahead nine minutes before half-time and then completing his brace and sealing a 2-0 win late on.
The former Everton striker latched on to a Brede Hangeland punt downfield before curling home his sixth goal of the campaign as Fulham move level on four points with Twente Enschede at the top of Group K.
The Dutch club came from behind to win 4-1 at home to Wisla Krakow, with giant Austrian striker Marc Janko scoring twice.
Meanwhile, Championship club Birmingham came from a goal down to win 2-1 away to Maribor of Slovenia in Group H.
Chris Hughton’s side trailed through a bizarre Dalibor Volas strike for the hosts — after Blues ’keeper Colin Doyle completely mis-kicked a Jonathan Spector back-pass.
A fine Chris Burke effort brought the visitors level, though, and Wade Elliott won it late on, as last season’s League Cup winners register their first points of the campaign.
Next up for Birmingham are Club Brugge of Belgium, who won 2-1 away to Braga courtesy of Ryan Donk’s last-minute effort.
There was no such luck for Celtic, however, with Neil Lennon’s side being denied a first win in Group I by Udinese in a tale of two penalties.
South Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung converted from 12 yards to give the Scottish Premier League side the lead with less than three minutes on the clock, but the Serie A outfit — who were missing star striker Antonio Di Natale — came away with a point thanks to Almen Abdi’s spot-kick in the dying moments.
The other match in a tricky Group I saw 2010 Europa League winners Atletico Madrid strike late to earn a 1-1 draw against Rennes in France.
Atletico had Radamel Falcao — scorer of an incredible 17 goals for Porto in the Portuguese side’s triumphant Europa League run last season — leading the line, but it was Rennes’ own Colombian striker that appeared to have decided the clash in Brittany.
Victor Hugo Montano’s deflected shot from outside the area had Rennes on course for a first win in 10 home games in the group stages of the UEFA Cup or Europa League, but a scrappy effort from substitute Juanfran allowed the Spaniards to steal a draw.
Elsewhere, Raul made his 150th European appearance but was not among the scorers for Schalke as the Bundesliga side beat Maccabi Haifa of Israel in Group J.
Austrian full-back Christian Fuchs scored twice and Jose Jurado also found the target as Schalke recorded a win in the first match of Huub Steven’s second spell as coach.
In later games, Tottenham Hotspur host Irish outsiders Shamrock Rovers while Paris Saint-Germain — one of the favourites to win the competition — are away to Athletic Bilbao.