The four German clubs involved in this year’s Europa League competition were unable to duplicate the success Tuesday and Wednesday of their Bundesliga brethren. Schalke, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern München all earned victories in the first round of Champions League matches. Instead, Hannover, VfB Stuttgart, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach all had to settle for a single point on the first day of Europa League group competition.
Stuttgart 2-2 Steaua Bucharest
VfB Stuttgart played host to Romanian side Steaua Bucharest Thursday evening in the first match of Europa League Group E play, coming back to earn a 2-2 draw at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. The Swabians have had a slow start to their league season, earning their first point on MatchDay 3 in a scoreless draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf, but were able to eliminate Dinamo Moscow in Europa League play-in competition to advance to the group stage.
Stuttgart opened up on the visitors early, as Vedad Ibišević got his team on the board with a header in the fifth minute of the match, assisted by Tamas Hajnal, already the fourth goal of the tournament for the Bosnian striker. But Steaua struck back immediately, taking advantage of some lackluster Stuttgart defensive play as Stefan Nikolic provided for Alexandru Chipciu as each team had a goal by the seventh minute of the contest. But the remainder of the half was scoreless, as headers by Steaua’s Lukasz Szukala and VfB’s Francisco ‘Maza’ Rodriguez both missed the mark.
The second half saw some more ineffective defensive work by Stuttgart, as an early backpass was so off target that goalkeeper Sven Ulreich couldn’t reach it and Steaua received an unearned corner kick. Four minutes into the second half, Hajnal launched a free kick into the box that caught Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu in no man’s land, but the Swabians were unable to take advantage. Cacau, who was given the starting nod by Coach Bruno Labaddia in hopes of punching up Stuttgart’s weak offense, hit the Steaua crossbar in the 53rd minute and shortly afterwards VfB right back Gotoku Sakai, who was a constant threat down the right flank throughout the match, fired a tough angle shot into the side netting. Steaua put on a flourish of attacking about ten minutes into the second half, holding Stuttgart’s feet to the fire, but their finishing betrayed their effort, particularly a golden opportunity skied by Nikolic.
Cacau again hit the woodwork in the 67th minute, and despite improved attacking after the introduction of Shinji Okazaki, it was Stuttgart who fell behind when a Maza foul in the box provided Steaua with a penalty shot. Second half substitute Raul Rususcu drilled home the penalty to give the hard-working Romanians a 2-1 lead with only ten minutes to go. Labbadia quickly brought in Martin Harnik and Ibrahima Traoré to step up Stuttgart’s attack, and the Swabians were able to equalize when defender Georg Niedermeier headed in a ball in the 85th minute. Ibišević had a chance for the winner in stoppage time, but his header was saved by Tatarusanu, whose good work in goal was a key factor in earning Steaua a point.
While Labbadia’s team had seven shots on goal compared to only two for the visitors, the inability to finish along with some puzzling defensive work kept Stuttgart from earning all three points. Maza had a rough day on the backline, giving up the penalty and another golden scoring chance, although he did make some good tackles. Sakai, who missed the first games of the season, looks to be regaining fitness and was a force down the right flank the entire match. Cacau twice hit the crossbar, and although his performance was decent, he looked very rusty on a terrible pass in his own half at the hour mark that Steaua easily intercepted and should have done more with. The Romanians’ hard tackles and constant pressing on defense certainly kept Stuttgart off balance.
In other Group E action Thursday, FC Copenhagen defeated Molde 2-1 to sit atop the group. The Swabians travel to Norway to face Molde in two weeks.
Stuttgart: Ulreich – Sakai, Niedermeier, Maza, Boka – Kvist (82. Harnik), Gentner – Torun (62. Okazaki), Hajnal (82. Traore) – Cacau, Ibisevic.
FC Twente 2-2 Hannover 96
Mirko Slomka’s Hannover side have yet to taste defeat this season in nine competitive matches, but had to scratch and claw their way back from a two goal deficit to earn a point against Eredivisie leaders FC Twente Thursday in Group L action.
So much has gone well for the 96ers this fall that it had to be a shock to give up a goal in the 7th minute, but that they did as Willem Janssen fired a low shot past Ron-Robert Ziegler to put Steve McClaren’s team a goal up. Twente continued hot in attack, whereas Hannover were sluggish and didn’t have their first real scoring chance until nearly the half hour mark, when midfielder Szabolcs Huszti, who is thriving upon his return this season to Hannover, launched a shot from distance.
Twente added a second goal after intermission when Nacer Chadli’s free kick struck gold in the 54th minute, putting Hannover in a two-goal down situation for the first time this season. Slomka’s resolute team revived, however, when young Artur Sobeich pulled a goal back thirteen minutes later, jumping on a deflected shot by Konstantin Rausch. The 22 year-old Sobeich continues to take full advantage of the minutes available due to the absence upfront of striker Mame Biram Diouf. Rausch again figured in the Hannover scoring, as his 73rd minute cross from the left was guided into goal by the unfortunate Twente captain, Peter Wisgerof, as Hannover earned an important road point through perseverance. Hannover held 55% of possession but were outshot 12-9 by McClaren’s men.
Spanish side Levante earned the early top spot in Group L with a 1-0 win over Helsingborg. Hannover will host Levante at the AWD Arena October 4th in their next Europa League match.
Hannover: Zieler – Cherundolo, Felipe, Eggimann, Rausch – da Silva Pinto (31. Nikci), Andreasen (75. Schmiedebach) – Stindl, Huszti – Schlaudraff, Abdellaoue (46. Sobiech)
AEL 0-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Cyprus turned out to not be a good place to visit for Lucien Favre’s , as they could only manage a scoreless draw against AEL Limassol. A golden chance to grab all three points was lost when Oscar Wendt’s late stoppage time penalty kick attempt ended up hitting the woodwork.
While Gladbach had 65% of possession over the course of the match, the Cypriots were inhospitable hosts. Very early chances by Alexander Ring and Mike Hanke added nothing to the scoreboard, with Hanke’s attempt hitting the goalpost. Limassol were not intimidated by the German visitors, as Rui Miguel forced a good first half save from ter Stegen, while Lacerda Edmar smashed a dangerous shot from distance early in the second half. Favre’s offseason acquisition, 19 year-old Swiss international Granit Xhaka, was close on a headed shot following his second half introduction and was involved in Mike Hanke’s missed second half chance, too.
The result, along with the 2-2 draw between Fenerbahce and Marseille, leaves all four Group B teams with one point. Gladbach will host the Turkish side on October 4th.
Mönchengladbach: ter Stegen – Jantschke, Brouwers, Dominguez, Wendt – Nordtveit, Cigerci – Herrmann, Ring (79. Rupp) – Hanke (82. De Camargo), Hrgota (46. Xhaka)
Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv
Perhaps the most disappointing result of the day for Bundesliga fans occurred at the Bay-Arena as Leverkusen played to a scoreless draw to Metalist Kharkiv, a team they had beaten by an aggregate 6-0 score in European competition two years ago. Despite putting 11 shots on frame to only one by the Ukrainians, Die Werkself now find themselves behind Rosenborg in Group K, as the Norwegians beat Rapid 2-1 in Vienna.
Kharkiv goalkeeper Oleksandr Goryainov had to work much harder than counterpart Bernd Leno in earning their clean sheets for the day. The 37 year-old Kharkiv native, who has been with the club since 2005, was impressive in making saves on efforts by Stefan Kiessling, Renato Augusto and Karim Ballarabi. Andre Schürrle looked to earn Leverkusen the points late, but hit the goalpost as Sami Hyypiä’s veteran squad was dominant but unable to score. Leverkusen’s next Europa game will be against Rosenborg in Norway October 4th.
Leverkusen: Leno – Schwaab, Wollscheid, Toprak, Hosogai – Bender (Schürrle, 63′), Reinatz, Rolfes – Bellarabi, Renato Augusto (Castro, 63′), Kießling (Junior Fernandes, 76′)