DAVID SMITH - Thursday, July 29, 2010
Michael Parkhurst and Nordsjælland hung on to give themselves thin chance of advancing in the Europa League while Daniel Antunez and Inter Turku were entirely outclassed by Genk.
FC Nordsjælland 0 - 1 Sporting CP
Michael Parkhurst and the Wild Tigers were unable to inflict any real damage on their Portuguese opponents Sporting on Thursday night, but a narrow loss leaves them a chance - albeit a small one - in next week's second leg in Lisbon.
While clearly over-matched on paper compared to their Portuguese counterparts, the Wild Tigers showed no hesitation in keeping their usual uptempo style of play, with coach Morten Wieghorst deploying his standard attacking 4-3-3 formation.
A slight shuffle in the back-four saw Parkhurst shifted over to right back, and his usual central partner Andreas Bjelland forced to watch from afar after twisting his knee in weekend league play.
The team almost pulled an early surprise when Matti Lund Nielsen played Nicki Bille Nielsen free on goal in the opening minutes, but the latter was unable to put his shot on-frame, keeping the game scoreless.
Midway through the half, poor clearance by ersatz central defender Henrik Kildentoft was collected by Maniche and sent in to Simon Vuksevic, who calmly put the ball past Jesper Hansen to give Sporting the lead.
Nordsjælland managed to prevent any more damage for the rest of the half and came out with more impetus after the break, but fell short of converting any of their numerous chances.
Bille Nielsen had one last chance in the final moments when substitute Andreas Granskov played the ball to him with space on the edge of the area, but his shot sailed just wide, with the referee blowing his whistle shortly after to confirm the victory to Sporting.
Nordsjælland face a difficult must-win situation in next Thursday's return leg in Sporting's Estádio José Alvalade if they have any hope of continuing in the competition. Should they produce an unlikely victory in Portugal, a 1-0 at the end of regulation will force overtime, while any other scoreline in favor of the Danish team would see them through automatically.
They must first return their gaze to Danish Superliga action during the weekend, as they will travel to face fellow Europa League participants Randers on Sunday.
Inter Turku 1 - 5 Genk
Daniel Antunez started and went the distance for Inter Turku as the team was easily overpowered at home by Belgian team Genk in a 5-1 stomping.
Genk needed just 17 minutes to jump into the lead with veteran player Thomas Buffel setting up Belgian youth international Kevin De Bruyne for the 1-0, then giving Marvin Ogunjimi with the chance to make it two for the visitors just before the halftime whistle.
Dutch striker Guillano Grot pulled one back for Inter eight minutes past the intermission, but any hopes for a comeback were crushed in the 61st minute, as Israeli international Elyaniv Barda converted an easy tap-in for Genk's third goal of the evening.
Substitute player Jelle Vossen then confirmed the Belgians' passage to the play-off round with a pair of solid strikes in the 77th and 85th minute, sending the home crowd away with the sting of a 5-1 defeat.
The blowout makes next Thursday's return leg in Belgium a mere formality for both teams, allowing Inter to shift focus back towards their mediocre domestic season, beginning with Saturday's home match against JJK Jyväskylä.
Aris outcast Freddy Adu is currently on-trial with Swiss team FC Sion, and was nowhere near Jagiellonia's Białystok City Stadium for the Greek team's 2-1 road victory.