UEL wrap Part 2: Napoli recovers to defeat Sparta


Dries Mertens scored twice as Napoli came from behind to begin its UEFA Europa League Group I campaign with a 3-1 win over Sparta Prague.

Mertens and Miguel Britos had both missed early chances for the host before Husbauer put the Czech side in front, firing home from the edge of the box after a corner was only half-cleared.

Napoli was level inside 10 minutes after Sparta defender Costa Nhamoinesu gave away a penalty for handball in the box.

Marek Hamsik's initial effort rifled back off the bar and a follow-up shot from Jose Callejon was blocked by the arm of Nhamoinesu, allowing Higuain to step up and score from the spot.

Callejon also hit the woodwork before half-time but Sparta briefly looked better at the start of the second-half, with another Husbauer effort blocked in the box.

But the home side stepped up after the break and Mertens grabbed his opener in the 51st minute when Higuain drove the ball into the box and the Belgian converted from close range.

Hamsik and Walter Gargano both brought saves out of David Bicik while Mertens and Gokhan Inler missed fine chances as Napoli pressed for a third.

It finally arrived in the 81st minute when Mertens scored a fine individual goal, easing past two Sparta defenders before firing past Bicik from just inside the box.


Fiorentina celebrated its first win of the campaign with a 3-0 triumph over 10-man Guingamp in its Europa League Group K opener.

Juan Vargas put the home team on the way in the 34th minute and shortly after, visiting midfielder Mustapha Diallo was sent off after he picked up his second yellow card.

Juan Guillermo Cuadrado doubled the lead in the 67th minute before substitute Federico Bernardeschi made it 3-0 with two minutes remaining.

Reigning Europa League champion Sevilla got its bid to win the competition for a record fourth time off to a successful start on Thursday night as it defeated Feyenoord 2-0.

Sevilla, which lifted the title for the third time in nine years in May after beating Benfica on penalties, scored twice in the first-half through Grzegorz Krychowiak and former QPR midfielder Stephane Mbia and Feyenoord, winner in 1974 and 2002, could find no way back.

Elsewhere, there were three hat-trick heroes as Dinamo Zagreb, PAOK Salonika and Steaua Bucharest all claimed big wins.

Algeria striker El Arbi Soudani netted his treble in the first half as Dinamo downed Astra Giurgiu 5-1, while Greece international Stefanos Athanasiadis did likewise in PAOK's 6-1 win over 10-man Dinamo Minsk.

Four of PAOK's goals in that victory came in opening 28 minutes, but it was the second-half where former European champion Steaua did all its damage as it struck six times between the 51st and 73rd minutes en route to crushing hapless AaB 6-0.

Claudiu Keseru struck an 11-minute hat-trick among that goal deluge as AaB paid a heavy price for losing goalkeeper Nicolai Larsen to a 57th-minute red card.

There were also convincing victories for Young Boys, which thrashed Slovan Bratislava 5-1, and Everton, which claimed a 4-1 triumph as an own goal from Ricardo Rodriguez plus strikes by Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines (penalty) and Kevin Mirallas helped it see off Wolfsburg at Goodison Park.

Dynamo Kiev was also celebrating a healthy victory after claiming a 3-0 triumph over Rio Ave.

Avraam Papadopoulos scored with virtually the last kick of the game to earn Trabzonspor a well-deserved 2-1 victory at Metalist Kharkiv.

Former AC Milan man Kevin Constant gave the visitor a first-half lead with his first goal for the club and although the Ukrainians struck back through Volodymyr Homenyuk, Papadopoulos was on hand to score from close range in injury time to seal the win.

French side Lille was held to a 1-1 home draw by Russian debutant Krasnodar in Group H.

Krasnodar, which came through from the second qualifying round and beat Real Sociedad in the play-offs, took a shock lead through a scrappy goal from Ricardo Laborde.

Eventually, the home side's pressure told just after the hour when Danish defender Simon Kjaer netted a fine free-kick.

Serbian winger Miroslav Radovic ensured Legia Warsaw got the three points with the only goal in a 1-0 Group L victory at home to Lokeren.

It was the least Henning Berg's side deserved for a dominant performance that should really have resulted in a bigger winning margin.