Lazio came from a goal behind to beat nine-man St. Etienne 3-2 in a thrilling encounter at the Stadio Olimpico in Europa League Group G.
The French side went ahead after just six minutes courtesy of a scrappy set-piece goal from Moustapha Sall. But Lazio fought back through goals from Ogenyi Onazi, Wesley Hoedt and Lucas Biglia – after St. Etienne striker Robert Beric was sent off after 32 minutes for an elbow on Mauricio.
Sall was also then sent off for the visitors, before the Italians had to withstand a late fightback — after Biglia looked to have put the game beyond doubt at 3-1. St. Etienne went ahead after just six minutes when the ball ricocheted off Sall’s chest from a corner and beyond Etrit Berisha in the Lazio goal.
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Nolan Roux then almost doubled the French team’s advantage after 15 minutes, but he was unlucky to see his looping header rebound back off the crossbar. Onazi found the equalizer for the Serie A side after 22 minutes. Slick play from Felipe Anderson on the left flank saw the ball delivered into the penalty area for Onazi to fire beyond Ruffier.
Beric was then sent off on 32 minutes for an alleged elbow on Lazio centerback Mauricio — although contact looked to be minimal. Lazio went ahead on 48 minutes when Ruffier made a mess of trying to deal with a free-kick, allowing Hoedt to neatly clip the ball into the empty net.
A deflected shot from Biglia then put the Italians 3-1 ahead, after the St. Etienne defense failed to clear their lines from a cross. But it was to be a nervy end to the evening as Kevin Monnet-Paquet pulled a late goal back for the nine men of St Etienne – his sublime lob being the best goal of the game.
Belenenses 0 Fiorentina 4
Scrappy first-half goals from Federico Bernardeschi and Khouma Babacar put Fiorentina on their way, before an own goal from Tonel and Rossi’s late strike sealed a 4-0 victory in Europa League Group I.
Bernardeschi’s goal was a rare flashpoint in a sluggish opening quarter, the Italy Under-21 international anticipating Matias Vecino’s parried strike to slot in to an empty net. Babacar’s goal was similarly untidy, his left-foot shot from the edge of the area taking a heavy deflection off Belenenses centerback Tonel, and it was the hapless Tonel who inadvertently turned in Jakub Blaszczykowski’s low cross in the 83rd minute.
The injury-plagued Rossi, playing just his third European match in four years, showed none of the effects of his chronic knee problems, performing brightly before he tucked away Milan Badelj’s delightful through ball.
Fiorentina looked the more comfortable of the sides from the opening stages, pegging Belenenses in their own half but still struggling to create a clear chance. Indeed, it was the Portuguese side who created the first clear chance, Carlos Martins’ whipped free-kick almost poked home by Luis Leal.
Belenenses were not in the ascendency for long, with Bernardeschi’s tap in coming just moments later and forcing Ricardo Sa Pinto’s side to sit even deeper. Matias Fernandez was one of Fiorentina’s few lively players, and it was his corner that was nearly flicked in for an own goal by Joao Afonso, the ball instead rebounding off the crossbar.
Coming just before half-time, Babacar’s deflected strike could have finished the game as a contest, but Belenenses started strongly in the second half, Kuca fluffing a good chance after breezing into Fiorentina’s penalty area.
However, it was not long before Belenenses, clearly under instruction to defend deep, faded once more. Fernandez and Vecino never looked rushed as they controlled the midfield for Fiorentina, but Paulo Sousa’s side failed to create another opening until Tonel’s unfortunate third and Rossi’s welcome fourth sealed the victory.
Giuseppe Rossi celebrated his new contract with a goal in Fiorentina’s straightforward win over Belenenses.
Schalke smash Asteras Tripoli; AZ Alkmaar stun Athletic Bilbao
Schalke made it two wins from two matches as Franco Di Santo scored a first-half hat-trick in a 4-0 victory against Asteras Tripoli. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar completed the rout in the 84th minute.
Basle and Lokomotiv were both 2-0 winners, against Lech Poznan and Skenderbeu Korce respectively, while Partizan beat Augsburg 3-1 in Germany despite having Aleksandar Subic sent off just after the hour mark.
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk joined Lazio on four points in Group G as they won 1-0 at Rosenborg. Sparta Prague overcame Apoel Nicosia 2-0 and there was also a home win for AZ Alkmaar as they defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-1. Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon drew 1-1 in the Turkish capital.
Competition favorites Borussia Dortmund again had to come from behind as they too drew 1-1 in Greece with PAOK Salonika thanks to a strike from Gonzalo Castro. Also in that group, FK Krasnodar defeated FK Qabala 2-1.
Napoli and FC Midtjylland are both sitting pretty on six points at the top of Group D after making it two wins in two matches. Napoli were 2-0 winners at Legia Warsaw while Midtjylland were comfortable 3-1 victors at Club Brugges.
Sporting Braga and Rapid Vienna also have 100 per cent records after 1-0 successes – Braga at home to FC Groningen and Vienna away at Dinamo Minsk. Villarreal got their first points on the board with a 1-0 home win against Viktoria Plzen, who had Vaclav Prochazka sent off 10 minutes from time, and Slovan Liberec did likewise by recording a surprise 1-0 victory in Marseille thanks to Vladimir Coufal’s late goal.