Defensive errors are catching on Merseyside
It’s not just Liverpool that are making individual defensive mistakes around Merseyside, with both Everton and Apollon Limassol culpable in the 2-2 draw, writes Paul Wilkes.
Everton’s first choice centre-backs Michael Keane and Phil Jagielka missed Goodison’s first European game for two-and-a-half years due to a knee and hamstring injury respectively.
Ronald Koeman has made numerous changes to his defence throughout the season, with the Dutchman alternating between three and four at the back. However, he has also been affected by long term injuries to Seamus Coleman and Ramiro Funes Mori.
Ashley Williams was the first to make a rash decision, when he attempted to play a ball down the line to Leighton Baines rather than use his goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Anton Maglica latched onto the loose pass and crossed for Adrian Sardinero to open the scoring.
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The gifts didn’t end there, as Hector Yuste decided to place his back pass wide of Apollon keeper Bruno Vale. Wayne Rooney equalised with probably his easiest goal of his life, when he rolled the ball into the empty net.
The Cypriots played some attractive football, with Liverpool’s on-loan Brazilian midfielder Allan making a surprise appearance. Substitute Nikola Vlasic appeared to have given Everton the victory, but Yuste made amends when he headed in Joao Pedro’s free-kick with just two minutes remaining and added more pressure on Koeman.
Arsenal youngsters can learn from Wilshere and Walcott
Arsene Wenger opted to rotate his squad and choose two full debutants in Reiss Nelson and Joe Willock. The French manager will have been pleased with his team’s effort overall, although they did make it a little harder than necessary against BATE Borisov which was Arsenal’s first encounter with a Belarusian side.
Theo Walcott scored after a cross from Olivier Giroud, having hit the post just a minute earlier. Walcott added his and Arsenal’s second when BATE goalkeeper Denis Scherbitski inexplicably passed it straight into the path of the winger 13 minutes later, then Rob Holding scored his first goal for the Gunners from a corner to give them a comfortable 3-0 lead inside the first 26 minutes.
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Arsenal’s youngsters can be pleased with their performances, as individuals and as a unit, but they should certainly draw upon the experiences of Walcott and Jack Wilshere. The two have arguably failed to live up to their full potential in their careers to date and might appear strange role models for the juniors.
However, they were both extremely professional in their displays against BATE and the teenagers must take on board the mistakes made by their peers rather than just the occasional positives. Wenger selected five 18-year-olds on the substitutes bench, with Marcus Mcguane and Eddie Nketiah gaining some valuable playing time in the second half, as Arsenal won 4-2 with Giroud scoring his 100th goal for the club.
Real Sociedad architects of their own downfall
Zenit Saint Petersburg are unbeaten domestically and lead Lokomotiv Moscow by four points in the Russian Premier League. However, they didn’t need to play anywhere near their best to get the better of Real Sociedad.
The Basque side twice made horrendous errors which Roberto Mancini’s team capitalised on. Emiliano Rigoni struck inside five minutes after deep-lying playmaker Ruben Pardo tried to make a square pass in front of his own box and then La Real goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli hopelessly misjudged the bounce of a long ball with Aleksandr Kokorin able to put the ball into an empty net.
Diego Llorente pulled one back for Eusebio Sacristan’s men just before half-time, but Kokorin put the game beyond doubt on the hour mark. The Russian striker now has four goals in the Europa League to add to his seven in the league.
Cologne fans have less reason to party
The 20,000 supporters that descended on the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago, were eager not to miss their first European experience in 25 years. Cologne have exceeded expectations since Peter Stoger took the job in 2013, but it appears that their fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga last season won’t be surpassed easily.
They haven’t won in all competitions this term and have found the net only once in six league games, whilst Jhon Cordoba’s fantastic strike against Arsenal was the last time they scored a goal. Cologne will feel that everything’s against them at present, as they hit the woodwork three times in the 1-0 defeat to Red Star Belgrade.
It was the Serbian’s first away win in European competition for a decade, with Richmond Boakye beating Timo Horn with sheer power from distance. But Cologne will be left rueing their wastefulness in attack, as they made 19 attempts on Milan Borjan’s goal.
Cutrone outshines Milan’s new arrivals
Milan spent £175 million this summer, as they aimed to close the gap on Juventus in Italy. They haven’t finished in the top three for four years, but hoped the new investment would make a significant difference.
Andre Silva has struggled for game time since he joined from Porto, although he has enjoyed the Europa League with a hat-trick against Austria Vienna and the opener versus Rijeka. Milan looked in control with a 2-0 lead, but two late goals from the Croatians looked to have cost Vincenzo Montella’s team.
Patrick Cutrone scored the winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time and the 19-year-old looks a real star. The striker has advanced through the academy at the San Siro and netted his fifth goal of the season.
Atalanta pass stern test
Atalanta lost their opening two matches in Serie A, but Roma and Napoli are Champions League clubs. They have bounced back superbly and are now unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions.
The 3-0 win over Everton made Europe take note, although their 1-1 draw at the Groupama Stadium is arguably more impressive. Lyon have now drawn their first two matches, which means Atalanta are in a brilliant position with back-to-back games against Apollon Limassol next.