Dortmund stage a remarkable recovery
Borussia Dortmund came from three goals down to beat Norwegian side Odd 4-3 in a remarkable Europa League match on Thursday, while Southampton were held at home by the Danish champions Midtjylland.
AFP Sports rounds up the action from the pick of Thursday’s play-off, first-leg games:
— Dortmund continued their perfect start to life under new coach Thomas Tuchel with a 4-3 win away to Norwegian side Odd, but they needed a remarkable recovery from three goals down to do it. In Skien, two hours south of Oslo, the hosts looked on course to claim a famous win as goals from Jone Samuelsen, Fredrik Nordkvelle and Espen Ruud put them 3-0 up by the midway point in the first half. Dortmund, whose starting line-up featured five members of the team beaten by Bayern Munich in the 2013 Champions League final, got back on level terms thanks to a PierreEmerick Aubameyang brace either side of a Shinji Kagawa strike. And Armenian star Henrikh Mkhitaryan emerged as the hero, scoring his seventh goal in four games to win it for the Bundesliga club and leave them with one foot in the group stage.
— Southampton have work to do if they are to join Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool and make it three English clubs in the group stage after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Danish champions Midtjylland. The visitors opened the scoring at St Mary’s courtesy of the Finnish international Tim Sparv. A former Saints academy player, his celebrations were muted after he battered a left- foot shot past Maarten Stekelenburg and into the net on the stroke of half-time. However, Ronald Koeman’s side hit back to equalize from the penalty spot in the 56th minute. After James Ward-Prowse was fouled by Kian Hansen, Jay Rodriguez stepped up to score from 12 yards. It was his first goal for Southampton since March 2014 following a long lay-off with a knee injury. The Premier League club almost won the game, with Maya Yoshida heading against a post deep into stoppage time.
— Wedged in between the second leg of their Spanish Super Cup triumph over Barcelona on Monday and a rematch with the Catalans at San Mames in their opening game of the season in La Liga on Sunday, a trip to face MSK Zilina in Slovakia looked like being a hazardous one for Athletic Bilbao. And so it proved for the beaten 2012 finalists, who threw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2. With a starting line-up much changed from Monday’s match at the Camp Nou, Athletic were 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals by Sabin Merino and Kike Sola. However, Jakub Paur pulled a goal back for Zilina before Brazilian forward William, on as a substitute, equalized in the 77th minute and then netted the winning goal four minutes into stoppage time. — Robin van Persie scored his first goal for Fenerbahce since joining the Turkish club from Manchester United for 4.7 million euros (US$5.2 million) last month. The 32-year-old Dutch international striker replaced Moussa Sow 10 minutes from the end of Fener’s match away to Greek side Atromitos in Athens and netted a 90th-minute winner. The 1-0 victory leaves the 2013 semifinalists primed to clinch a place in the group stage in the return leg next Thursday.
— The individual performance of the evening came from Slovakian forward Robert Mak. The former Nuremberg player scored a hat-trick and set up further goals for team-mates Dimitris Pelkas and Garry Rodrigues as his Greek side PAOK hammered Brondby 5-0.
1. Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez, left, heads the ball during the Europa League play-off first leg soccer match between Southampton and Midtjylland in Southampton, England, Thursday, Aug. 20. 2. Rosenborg’s Ole Selaes celebrates at the end of an Europa League Playoffs first leg match against Steaua at the National Arena Stadium in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday. 3. Midtjylland’s Tim Sparv, left, scores his sides first goal during the Europa League playoff first leg soccer match between Southampton and Midtjylland in Southampton, Thursday.