Defending Europa champs Sevilla open title bid with successful start

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

Sevilla, who 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, winners in 1974 and 2002, could find no way back.

Aside from Sevilla, three other clubs have won the UEFA Cup/Europa League three times.

Liverpool and Juventus are both involved in the Champions League this season but Inter Milan are in the Europa and, like Sevilla, they started their group stage campaign with a win as they downed 10-man Dnipro thanks to Danilo D’Ambrosio’s 71st-minute strike.

The other four former winners involved this season all avoided defeats on Thursday, with Napoli coming from behind to beat Sparta Prague 3-1 thanks to efforts from Gonzalo Higuain and Dries Mertens (two), while PSV Eindhoven downed Estoril 1-0 through Luuk De Jong’s first-half penalty.

Meanwhile, Borussia Monchengladbach and Tottenham, who share four UEFA Cup titles between them, both recorded draws. Monchengladbach were held 1-1 at home by Villarreal while Spurs drew 0-0 at Partizan Belgrade.

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 champions Steaua did all their damage as they 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, who thrashed Slovan Bratislava 5-1, and Everton, who claimed a 4-1 triumph as an own goal from Ricardo Rodriguez plus strikes by Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines (penalty) and Kevin Mirallas helped them see off Wolfsburg at Goodison Park.

Fiorentina and Dynamo Kiev were celebrating healthy victories as well, claiming respective 3-0 triumphs over Guingamp and Rio Ave.

Jonathan Soriano, the top scorer in last season’s competition with eight goals, was again on the mark as he helped Red Bull Salzburg salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Celtic.

Celtic had twice led through Mubarak Wakaso and Scott Brown but Salzburg hit back both times thanks to Alan and Soriano, whose second leveller came 12 minutes from time from a thumping long-range free-kick.

Denmark defender Mathias Jorgensen netted both of FC Copenhagen’s goals in their 2-0 win over HJK Helsinki, while a stoppage-time Avraam Papadopoulos goal earned Trabzonspor a 2-1 win at Metalist Kharkiv.

In an eventful match that produced five goals and saw both teams have a player sent off, Apollon Limassol beat FC Zurich 3-2 thanks to an 87th-minute own goal from Philippe Koch, while Miroslav Radovic’s second-half goal earned Legia Warsaw a 1-0 home win over Lokeren.

Also victorious on Thursday were Dinamo Moscow, who beat Panathinaikos 2-1 in Athens, and Standard Liege, who defeated Rijeka 2-0

Elsewhere, the matches between Lille and Krasnodar and Besiktas and Asteras Tripoli both finished 1-1, while Club Brugge drew 0-0 with Torino, which was the same scoreline as the game between Azerbaijan minnows FC Karabakh and France’s St. Etienne.