I will mention the other Europa League results in just a second, but can we all just take a moment to revel (once again) in the fact that we got a fucking draw against Villarreal?! Away!!! No one expected that, we all felt that this was about enjoying the experience and coming out of it with our heads held high. At the moment, I think we all feel as high as Pete Doherty (some quite literally I would wager) and god dammit you should! So, what else happened around the Europa League on Thursday night?
Rapid Wien won the other G game, an impressive and somewhat unexpected victory at home over Spartak Moscow. A calamitous own goal from a corner early in the second half, followed by a brilliant solo effort from Murg. Other stand out results saw Eintracht Frankfurt win with 10 men away in Marseille with an 89th minute winner (in front of an empty Stade Velodrome), whilst also in France, Hatem Ben Arfa scored an injury time penalty on his debut for Rennes as they defeated Jablonec 2-1. Sevilla hammered Belgium side Standard Liege by 5 goals to 1, those Spanish sides are good at home you know, and Dinamo Zagreb thumped Fenerbahce 4-1 in what was probably the shock result of the night, although Milan only winning 1-0 away at F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg is probably just as shocking. Finally, in the first competitive Red Bull derby, and probably the game of the night, Salzburg were 2-0 through an early double salvo of poor defending, but Leipzig came back through two goals from Laimer and a header from Poulsen, but the Austrians prevailed in the 89th minute through Gulbrandsen...wonder if he'll end up at Leipzig at some point?
Chris Marshall goes all Andorran in his latest scribblings:
As Heart and Hand’s Iberian Expert it’s important that I don’t lose sight of the little details when covering the region. As La Liga continues to strive to be the best league in the world whilst simultaneously isolating their fans at home (something that always crops up on the excellent Isco Inferno La Liga Show) and Portugal continues its role as a proving ground for the stars of tomorrow, in Andorra the surroundings are considerably more modest. But what should you be looking out for over the coming Andorran season? Luckily The European Hangover is here to help you through.
With only 8 teams in the Primera Divisio there’s an argument to say that every team will have an eye on the prize as the season begins but defending champions FC Santa Coloma are clearly the team to beat. Holders of a record 12 Andorran League titles they were knocked out in the opening preliminary round of this seasons Champions League by Kosovan side Drita. They did then manage a 1-0 win against Valur in the Europa League before losing 3-1 to their Icelandic counterparts on aggregate. Last season’s runner’s up UE Engordany were rewarded with Europa League success for their best ever finish and even knocked out San Marinese side Folgore before being hammered by FC Kairat in the following round. They will hope that maybe they can go one step further and win a first ever title. The last team to win the league not named FC Santa Coloma were FC Lusitanos, who some of you may vaguely remember as a past European opponent of West Ham United, and they showed their title credentials for the season ahead by holding the defending champions to a 0-0 draw on opening day. UE Santa Coloma and UE Sant Julia have both had success in the past whilst Andorra’s oldest club Encamp only just avoided relegation from the top tier after winning a relegation play off. This brings us to perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of the league as despite there only being 19 teams across the two countries divisions (a top tier of 8 with a bottom of tier of 11 which amazingly includes three B sides), each season a minimum of two teams go up and two teams go down. This year Inter Club d’Escalades and Penya Encarnada will hope to prove that they aren’t a pair of yo-yo clubs. And what of the Segona Divisio. Last season one team - Atletic America - retired from the league and if it wasn’t for them and I can only assume a rank rotten FC Lusitanos “B” then the staunchly named FC Ranger’s would have finished bottom of the pile.
Whilst the club game is very much at the bottom of the European footballing ladder the national side seem to have been reinvigorated by the new UEFA Nations League. Led by their captain, record cap holder and record goalscorer 38 year old defender Ildefons Lima Los Tricolores have made an unbeaten start in their quest to qualify for Euro 2020 having drawn with both Kazakhstan and Latvia. Is it too fanciful to think that they could actually do it? Almost certainly yes, but why not let them dream a little.
Scott McKenzie gives the latest on HSV's efforts to return to the Bundesliga at the first time of asking:
It has been a good week to be a follower of HSV as it is not often in recent history the club can say that they are top of the league granted it is early days in the 2. Bundesliga, however, it is a good sign that progress has been made at the Volkspark. All started last week at the Volkspark last Saturday afternoon where HSV came back from a 1-0 deficit to 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 where Pierre-Michel Lasogga scoring his first hat-trick in about 5 years & there was also a bit a luck on Sunday when leaders 1. FC Köln lost at home to 3-5 against SC Paderborn. There was also a game in hand to take place on Tuesday night because when HSV where originally meant to play in Dresden against Dynamo just before the long international break was postponed due Germany’s far-right deciding to a have a protest which used that much policing resources, the game was cancelled by the German Interior Ministry. Therefore played on Tuesday teatime due to the ridiculous rules from UEFA. HSV managed to get a tight uneasy 1-0 win thanks to Hwang Hee-chan who is on loan from Red Bull Salzburg. Lasogga also still managed to miss a 94th minute which in all fairness was outside of the box. Of course, we have our own interest with David Bates continuing to do well but the locals are a bit more aware of what his strengths & weaknesses are.
Finally from me, a big thank you to all of you who read these blogs. All those who contribute do an excellent job and I thank them too for their efforts. Also, thanks to those who tuned in to the Champions League Round Up shows. That seems like a format that will work for those weeks so onwards and upwards in that respect. And as I mentioned earlier, a result like that in Spain (am I right in thinking Villarreal have never beaten us in 90 minutes?) another example of why we are back. And why we are the people.
James Forrest (@No_Not_That_1)