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.”

Quick Guide

Emery urges Villa to adapt after 3-2 defeat at Legia Warsaw


Unai Emery (pictured) insists Aston Villa must learn how to handle European football and refused to blame his changes after their sloppy 3-2 defeat at Legia Warsaw.

Ernest Muci’s second-half winner clinched a deserved victory for the hosts to ruin Villa’s Europa Conference League debut. Jhon Durán and Lucas Digne twice levelled for the underwhelming visitors in the first half after Pawel Wszolek and Muci scored for Legia.

It ranked as one of the worst performances in Emery’s 11 months in charge, with the manager making five changes, including giving a debut to Barcelona loanee Clément Lenglet.

He said: “I believe in our squad and our players and we could have lost this game with other players on the pitch. Every match away in Europe is difficult and this is a new step where we have to learn. We still have the possibility to react again, we are going to play another five matches. It’s not a good result but we have to learn and have to understand how we’re going to face the next matches and this competition.

“We have to build the squad who will play a lot of matches and we will need players in the squad to give them opportunities to play, to use their qualities. In the second half we started well but in one click, we concede another opportunity and they score a goal. They had a plan, they did good and we couldn’t stop them in some moments.”

Legia struck after just two minutes in the Group E opener when Wszolek converted Patryk Kun’s cross. Durán levelled four minutes later, though, nodding in after Kacper Tobiasz turned Nicolò Zaniolo’s drive onto the bar.

It should have given Villa a platform but a shoddy, slow, performance continued to undermine their tag as one of the tournament favourites.

Livewire Muci punished them again after 26 minutes when Villa were left floundering on the flanks and he fired in Wszolek’s centre. But Villa came back, however undeserved, and Digne’s deflected volley ensured they went into the break level.

Parity did not last long, though, when Muci went sent running at Ezri Konsa and Calum Chambers, made fools of them both and found the net off a post.

This time there was no way back and Marc Gual almost added a fourth when Emi Martínez parried Bartosz Slisz’s shot and Chambers cleared. Jacob Ramsey, Moussa Diaby and Youri Tielemans tried to find an unlikely leveller but victorious Legia held on.

“You should not underestimate the underdogs, Mostar will also be a hot game, a Balkan team with a lot of emotions,” said manager Kosta Runjaic, after Mostar beat AZ Alkmaar 4-3 in the other group game.

“It’s surprise for me but it’s also a surprise we won against Aston Villa, I’m happy about it, this three points in the first game are very important for us. We were lucky in some moments but you need luck. We will see how we do in the next game, we will face a very ugly Alkmaar in a couple of weeks.” PA Media

Photograph: Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA

Thank you for your feedback.

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.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring for Marseille at Ajax.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates after scoring for Marseille at Ajax. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

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 Sheriff Tiraspol. 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.

skip past newsletter promotion

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.