Europa League roundup: Abdallah Sima gives Rangers opening win over Betis
Abdallah Sima’s second-half goal delivered a 1-0 victory for Rangers against Real Betis in their opening Europa League group match at Ibrox. The forward poked home a shot from close range to settle a competitive match between two of the favourites to progress to the knockout stages.
Michael Beale’s side also struck the frame of the goal twice in a strong second-half display and had Jack Butland to thank for making several key saves, especially in the opening period.
Beale told TNT Sports: “It was a really good opponent, you could see that. First half we didn’t show enough belief with the ball. Having said that, the big two chances were with us. We spoke about that at half-time, more belief, more passion, more desire and the goal typified that because the first three or four contacts in the box, we won.”
Beale praised Ben Davies for his contribution after admitting the goal looked like it was scored “half each” by the defender and Sima. “Ben has been very gracious and handed it over to Abdallah,” the manager said. “What about him, Ben Davies? He comes into the season injured, misses up to the international break, a lot was said about him outside, and the last two performances from him have been outstanding.”
Elsewhere in Group C, Sparta Prague beat Aris Limassol 3-2, while in Group E, Union Saint-Gilloise and Toulouse drew 1-1 as Liverpool won 3-1 against Lask in Austria. In Group A, Freiburg won 3-2 at Olympiakos to sit behind West Ham – 3-1 victors at home to Serbia’s TSC – on goal difference.
In the same tough group in which Brighton lost 3-2 at home to AEK Athens, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored his second goal in the 78th minute to salvage a 3-3 draw for Marseille at Ajax in a meeting between two former Champions League winners. Marseille were without a coach after Marcelino stepped down on Wednesday after only a handful of games in charge.
Romelu Lukaku scored the second-half winner for last year’s runners-up, Roma, in a 2-1 Group G victory away to Moldova’s SheriffTiraspol. It was Lukaku’s second goal since joining from Chelsea. Earlier, the substitute midfielder Leandro Paredes netted from a deflected free-kick in first-half stoppage time to give the visitors a 1-0 lead before Cristian Tovar equalised in the second half.
Elsewhere in Group G, Slavia Prague took home three points from Geneva after beating Servette 2-0.
Atalanta relied on second-half goals from Charles De Ketelaere and the substitute Éderson in a 2-0 victory over the Polish newcomers Rakow Czestochowa in Group D.
Ludovic Blas scored the first goal in the competition this season in the second minute to help Rennes beat Maccabi Haifa 3-0 in Group F. In the group’s other game, Panathinaikos defeated Villarreal, the 2021 Europa League champions, 2-0.
In Group H, Florian Wirtz, Amine Adli, Victor Boniface and the substitute Jonas Hofmann all scored as Bayer Leverkusen routed Sweden’s newcomers Häcken 4-0.