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Europa League roundup: Butland saves Clement’s Rangers at Sparta Prague

Rangers played second fiddle to Sparta Prague for most of their Europa League game in the Czech Republic before leaving with a point in a goalless draw.

Philippe Clement’s tenure as the Rangers manager began with a convincing 4-0 win over Hibernian at Ibrox on Saturday but he had to rely on goalkeeper Jack Butland to keep the home side at bay in the first half of the Group C match in which the visitors lacked zip.

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There was a marked improvement in the final 20 minutes and the Brazilian substitute Danilo hit the bar but Sparta will wonder how they did not win this game early on.

The Czech champions showed their intent and Butland had to makes two great saves within seconds after the ever-dangerous Veljko Birmancevic waltzed into the Rangers box to get a shot away before Qazim Laci latched on to the rebound.

When the Rangers midfielder Nico Raskin carelessly gave possession away at the edge of the box on the half-hour mark Butland was required to make another save from Laci’s drive, then Birmancevic hit the side-netting with a close-range effort.

John Lundstram’s wayward shot before the break was the only effort on goal from Rangers who needed a vast improvement in the second half. However, the Czech side remained much more dangerous.

In the 55th minute Ben Davies headed away an effort from Martin Vitik two yards from goal then the Sparta striker Jan Kuchta missed the target from close range.

When Rangers picked up late on, Peter Vindahl made a good save from a Sam Lammers drive and then tipped a Danilo shot on to the crossbar to ensure the spoils were shared. The two teams are level on four points, with the Czech side second on goal difference, two points behind Real Betis, who won 1-0 at Aris Limassol after Ayoze Pérez scored the decisive goal in the 75th minute.

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Europa Conference League: Villa and Faroe Islanders soar


Ollie Watkins continued his red-hot form as Aston Villa cruised to a statement 4-1 win at AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League. 

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The striker netted his 10th goal of the season and fourth in Europe this season on Thursday.
Leon Bailey and Youri Tielemans – his first for Villa – put them in control in AZ Stadium after less than 25 minutes.
Vangelis Pavlidis wasted the hosts’ best chances but Watkins and John McGinn added more goals after the break in the Netherlands before Ibrahim Sadiq grabbed a consolation.
It was the second time in two games Villa had scored four after their 4-1 Premier League win over West Ham on Sunday.

Ki Klaksvik became the first Faroe Islands club to win in the group stages of a European competition with a stunning 3-0 success againt Olimpija Ljubljana. Rene Joensen, Pall Klettskard and Jakup Andreasen were the heroes at at the 6,500 capacity Torsvollur national stadium.

Aberdeen‘s hopes of navigating a route through the Conference League group stage suffered a major blow as they threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against PAOK Salonika on a rollercoaster night at Pittodrie.
Having weathered heavy pressure in a goalless first half, Barry Robson’s men found themselves two goals to the good by the hour mark thanks to Bojan Miovski and Dante Polvara.
But a stunning comeback saw the Greek side take three points after goals from substitutes Kiril Despodov and captain Vieirinha, and a stoppage-time penalty, awarded after a VAR check, from Stefan Schwab.

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In Group G, Romelu Lukaku scored in his 14th consecutive Europa League game as Roma beat Slavia Prague 2-0 at the Stadio Olimpico.

Young midfielder Edoardo Bove sent Roma on their way with a stunning strike after just 43 seconds. Lukaku then drove the ball high into the net after 17 minutes as José Mourinho’s side made it three wins from three games to take control of the group, in which Sheriff Tiraspol and Servette also drew 1-1.

Marseille secured a 3-1 home victory against AEK Athens in an entertaining Group B match that featured a red card for the visiting goalkeeper and two goals from the penalty spot.

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Vitinha broke the deadlock for Marseille in the 27th minute, bundling home a short-range cross after they had squandered several earlier chances. The visitors levelled eight minutes into the second half when Orbelín Pineda received a fortunate break. Initially scuffing a cross, the ball continued into his path, and he made no mistake with the second opportunity.

However, AEK were swiftly under pressure again when their keeper, Cican Stankovic, was sent off for fouling Vitinha inside the box. Amine Harit converted the penalty on the hour mark. Jordan Veretout made it three for the hosts in the 69th minute from the spot after Nordin Amrabat fouled Renan Lodi. Brighton claimed the club’s first European win with JoãoPedro and Ansu Fati on target in a 2-0 victory over Ajax in Group B’s other game.

Vincenzo Grifo scored a second-half hat-trick as Freiburg recovered from an early setback to triumph 3-1 away to Serbian side Backa Topola. West Ham’s 2-1 defeat at Olympiakos allowed the Germans to join David Moyes’s side at the top of Group A on six points.

Atalanta stayed top of Group D after Luis Muriel scored twice in a 2-2 draw away to 10-man Sturm Graz. Sporting Lisbon drew 1-1 at Polish side Rakow Czestochowa despite losing Sweden striker Viktor Gyökeres to a red card after only eight minutes.

In Group E, Union Saint-Gilloise beat LASK 2-1 to move into second place behind Liverpool, who thrashed Toulouse 5-1 to keep their 100% record going.

Bayer Leverkusen hammered Qarabag 5-1 and Group H rivals Molde won by the same scoreline against Hacken. Rennes were 2-1 victors at Panathinaikos in Group F.