MICHAEL HADLEY - Saturday, July 21, 2012
The five Americans currently playing in the Europa League's second qualifying round saw their teams meet very different fates in the opening leg Thursday night.
FK Mlada Boleslav 3-0 Thor Akureyri
Giuseppe Funicello and Thor's defensive wizardry fell apart in their second round opener against the Czech Republic's Mlada Boleslav.
After taking a successful defensive approach to their opener in Ireland two weeks ago, Thor conceded three goals in a sloppy effort.
Though the game began slightly more open than Mlada Boleslav would have liked, the hosts quickly took over as they pressed for the opening tally. In the 33rd minute it was Lukas Magera who finally broke the seal on the floodgates. He was able to handle a cross from Long Borilova, heading it home with finesse.
Magera wasn't finished there. Just ten minutes later, a Mares Sivric corner kick hit off the post right to the feet of the forward. He made no mistake pushing the ball beyond Thor's Srdjan Rajkovic for the second goal of the game.
Mlada Boleslav's final tally came in the 80th minute when a Kudel Sirl shot deflected through the box, directly in front of Jasmin Scuka who poked in the host's third goal.
Funicello played from beginning to end for Thor, picking up a yellow card in the 81st minute. Recent addition Josh Wicks did not see action for Thor on the road, but was in the 18 and could potentially start some time this week.
Thor play two Icelandic league matches Saturday and Tuesday before the second leg on Thursday.
FC Twente 1-1 Inter Turku
In a game FC Twente dominated, Inter Turku and Daniel Atunez will head back to Finland with the draw and all-important away goal in their favor.
Twente absolutely dominated possession in the early parts of the match, but the Dutch giants lacked a final touch to finish the job.
When it appeared they had figured out the key to success, a stellar play from Babacar Diallo to clear a Twente attempt off the goal line ended up leading to the opening strike for Inter.
Following the clearance, former Manchester City forward Pim Bouman sprinted down the field, and following a near 35 yard run, hammered home the shot with his left boot.
Inter's advantage would go into the locker room, but Twente came out ready to draw even. Offensive pressure led to two consecutive corners around the 65th minute, but the goal remained undisturbed.
Moments later, Roberto Rosales was able to find Dusan the box who made no mistake with his header, tying things up in the 66th minute.
Atunez played the entire 90 minutes for Veikkausliiga-leading Inter Turku.
Maccabi Netanya 1-2 KuPS
In the first head to head match up between Yanks in the 2012-2013 Europa League, it was Kuopion Palloseura and Echtu Tabe who will take the advantage back to Finland over Maccabi Netanya and Leo Krupnik.
Tabe and the KuPS defense have struggled in the Veikkausliiga so far in 2012, but they have put together some stellar work in the Europa League. Holding off the Israeli attack well, KuPS managed to score twice before the half.
Aleksi Paananen scored his first of two Thursday after a successful cross in the 36th minute from Estonian midfielder Ats Purje, burying the shot from close range.
The Fin scored again right before the half, securing the ball on a breakaway and beating the keeper for the eventual game winner.
Maccabi Netanya added Yossi Shivhon to start the second half, and the substitution would eventually justify head coach Tal Banin's decision to make the never-popular halftime change. Shivhon, beginning his first year with his near team, found space from distance and brought the Israelis back within a goal.
Tabe and crew will have the obvious advantage in Finland, as their two away-goal advantage will be tough to match for Maccabi Netanya. Both Tabe and Krupnik went the full 90 minutes for their squads.
All second leg matches will be played Thursday 26 July with the aggregate winners advancing to the third qualifying round. The winners from there will advanced to the group stages of the Europa League which will take place throughout the fall and winter months.