talkSPORT.com brings you a round-up of the best of the action from the Europa League play-offs on Thursday evening…
Legia Warsaw 0-0 Rangers
Steven Gerrard called it right with his prediction that Rangers’ Europa League shoot-out with Legia Warsaw will go to the wire after his side were held to a goalless first-leg draw in Poland.
But Gerrard will be delighted by the composure his side showed in the Legia cauldron as they seek to reach the group stages for the second year running.
The Light Blues were well warned ahead of kick-off about the kind of hostile environment they would face in the Polish capital, with the frenzied home support notorious for the colourful atmospheres they generate.
Sheyi Ojo came very close to silencing the Legia faithful eight minutes in. Jon Flanagan’s fierce tackle on Cafu won possession in an advanced area before James Tavernier threw over a delicious cross but on-loan Liverpool youngster Ojo put his header the wrong side of the post.
The hosts’ response to that warning was instantaneous as Luquinhas cut in from the left to fire at goal. McGregor did his team a favour by parring away from danger.
But Gers were keeping their cool as well as the ball for lengthy spells, which helped to take some of the sting out of the crowd.
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Legia’s only other chance of the first half came on 31 minutes as Niko Katic went to ground but failed to stop Pawel Stolarski’s pass finding Portuguese midfielder Cafu. Again McGregor stood firm as the shot came in.
The hosts were roared back out for the second half but the home support and it sparked a increase in their tempo.
Luquinhas found Valerian Gvilia in the box but the Georgian playmaker skied his effort while centre-back Igor Lewczuk raised Gers’ heart levels as he twice came close with a couple of headers.
Celtic 2-0 AIK
Odsonne Edouard’s free-kick gave Celtic a two-goal cushion to take to Sweden in their Europa League play-off against AIK.
The Frenchman curled home from 25 yards in the 73rd minute at Celtic Park to earn the Scottish champions a 2-0 first-leg triumph.
James Forrest had scored in his fifth consecutive game two minutes after the break as Celtic took a major step towards sealing a place in the group stage.
The result was a much-welcome boost for manager Neil Lennon and a Celtic support still hurting from their Champions League defeat by Cluj last week.
After accusing the board of “downsizing” and “gambling 10 in a row” on Saturday, fans in the standing section had another warning for the Parkhead power-brokers. A banner demanded “Don’t Sleep at Wheel” above an image of chief executive Peter Lawwell driving a car with majority shareholder Dermot Desmond in the passenger seat and Lennon in the back.
Celtic soon delivered a signing to the agitated fans with the return of goalkeeper Fraser Forster on loan from Southampton announced during the first half after Lennon revealed Scott Bain would be out for another four to six weeks with his dislocated thumb.
Torino 2-3 Wolves
Wolves took a huge step towards cementing their place in the Europa League after edging past Torino in a five goal thriller in Turin.
The Wanderers took a 43rd-minute lead when Torino failed to defend a Joao Moutinho free-kick.
Romain Saiss challenged for the ball, but the final touch may well have come off Torino’s Brazilian defender Bremer for an unfortunate own goal.
Wolves doubled their lead after 59 minutes when the impressive Adama Traore set up Diogo Jota, the Portuguese stroking home the cross from 10 yards out.
But Torino pulled a goal back two minutes later as the unmarked Lorenzo De Silvestri met Cristian Ansaldi’s deep cross to make it 2-1.
Raul Jimenez took advantage of the Portuguese referee’s decision to let play continue after substitute Lomba Neto was impeded, bursting past some tame Torino tackling to fire home.
Andrea Belotti gave Torino hope for the second leg by converting an 89th-minute penalty.
Belotti was fouled by Ruben Vinagre and sent his spot-kick down the middle past Rui Patricio.
Patricio then denied Belotti’s low fizzing strike with a fine save as Wolves held on.