It was wins all around for all Yanks competing in Europa Conference League qualifiers on Thursday, with Kanny Saief finding the net for Baku, Sam Vines going the distance for Antwerp and Kyle McLagan and Vikingur continuing their run.
Víkingur Reykjavík 1 – 0 Lech Poznań
Kyle McLagan went the distance in Vikingur’s defense on Thursday night, as they took the narrow win on home soil against Polish team Lech Poznań.
Víkingur created danger around the Poznań goal more consistently through the first half, however it was a rapid counter following a chance from the hosts that gave them their breakthrough just before the half.
Ari Sigurpalsson was released up the left side and streaked into opposing territory before cutting inside to the top edge of the 18-yard box. Amidst a crowd of defenders, he fired a rocket of a shot that flew just inside the right post for the 1-0 lead.
An open second half saw Poznań pile the pressure on McLagan and his fellow defenders, but they held strong, helped with several timely interventions by Víkingur keeper Ingvar Jonssen, with the final whistle confirming the first-leg victory.
The result leaves it all down to next Thursday’s return leg in Poland, where the Vikings will be under pressure to preserve their small lead in order to advance to the final playoff likely against Luxembourg’s Dudelange.
Highlights of the game can be viewed under this link.
Brøndby 1 – 0 Basel
Christian Cappis played nearly the full game for Brøndby on Thursday night, lining up on the left side of the team’s central midfield as they took a 1-0 victory over Basel at home.
Brøndby were the more aggressive the two teams in a mostly tame affair, with Cappis responsible for one brief moment of slight danger just past the hour, forcing Basel keeper Marwin Hitz into a relatively routing save.
The Danes found their winner in the 74th minute, after Simon Hedlund laid the ball of to Marko Divkovic on the right side of the area, for a low shot that was partially deflected by the keeper, but not enough to prevent it from rolling over the line for the 1-0 lead.
Cappis was pulled in the 90th minute as Brøndby head coach Niels Frederiksen sought to kill off the final moments of the game.
The Danes will look to protect their one-goal lead next Thursday when they head to Switzerland in the second leg.
Lillestrøm 1 – 3 Royal Antwerp
Sam Vines started and went the distance at left back for Royal Antwerp, as they all but assured their place in the knockout round with a dominant road win over Norwegians Lillestrøm.
The Belgians wasted no time in striking first, with Dinis Almeida’s glancing header at the near post being just enough to redirect Koji Miyoshi’s fifth-minute corner into the far side of goal.
Lillestrøm did pull even late in first-half injury time, with Kaan Kairinen squaring the ball inside the area for Magnus Knudsen to put away with an emphatic strike from ten yards out.
However, the second half belonged to Antwerp, with Radja Nainggolan running onto Miyoshi cut-back pass inside the area and easily burying his six-yard strike for the 50th-minute lead, then Nainggolan one-timing Anthony Valencia’s short set-up with a looping shot from 20 yards to secure the 3-1 victory.
Antwerp need only to avoid disaster in next Thursday’s return leg in front of their home crowd to reach the final play-off round, where they will face either Icelandic team Breiðablik or Turkish team Başakşehir in the final step before the group stage.
Dundee United 1 – 0 AZ Alkmaar
Ian Harkes started and played the full game for United on Thursday night on the left side of their midfield, as a second-half goal was enough to give them the slight advantage of Dutch opponents AZ Alkmaar.
The dynamic duo of Glenn Middleton and Jamie McGrath teamed up for the lone goal of the game, with two playing quick one-two on the way into the area, giving the former space to hit his one-touch left-footed shot from 15 yards just inside the left upright.
Harkes and his teammates still have a tough job ahead of them, as they must find a way to protect their narrowest of leads next Thursday in the return leg in the Netherlands.
Highlights of the game can be viewed under this link.
Neftçi Baku 2 – 1 Rapid Wien
Kenny Saief was once again on the scoreboard for Neftçi Baku on Thursday, netting their opening goal as they left it until the second half to finally overcome Austrian guests Rapid Wien.
Ataa Jaber opened the scoring for Baku in the 44th minute, pulling down a cross from Yusuf Lawal at 24 yards out before launching an off-balance shot that took a lucky bounce off of a defender on its way into the left side of goal.
Saief, who played 77 minutes lined up on the right wing of the attack, made it 2-0 just before the hour mark, fighting for possession of a comically bad headed clearance by the Austrian keeper before storming into the area, rounding his opponent and striking low from the the right for the 2-0 lead.
Rapid did cut the lead to a single goal in the fifth minute of added time when the Baku defense was caught sleeping just before the final whistle, allowing Guido Burgstaller to find space for a low 17-yard strike.
Baku will head to Austria’s capital next Thursday for the return leg, looking to hang onto their lead in order to reach the final play-off.
US U-20 player Rokas Pukštas was not in uniform for Hajduk Split on Thursday night as they easily overcame Portuguese team Vitória de Guimarães by a 3-1 margin in Croatia.