Europa League 2018/2019: Three talking points from matchday one
The new season of European club competition began this week, and after an action packed first day, the second day offered intense drama and a shocking upset in the Champions League. The second tier of European club football kicked off on Thursday, as 48 clubs across different countries in Europe began their assault on the competition.
Seasoned Europa League campaigners such as Bate Borisov, Slavia Prague, RB Salzburg and Rapid Vienna continued their usual appearance, while more prestigious teams such as Chelsea and Celtic find themselves in the competition owing to one factor or the other.
The sheer amount of fixtures to be played and diversity of the countries being represented meant that matches were played in countries as far flung on the European continent as Luxembourg, Cyprus and Hungary, offering us captivating matches as well as dour ones in almost equal measure.
There were some shocks recorded across the 24 matchups, as well as routine victories recorded. Some trends were also kept up with, while others were broken. Here are three observations from the first matchday of the 2018/2019 Europa League group stage.
#3 Steven Gerrard is doing a great job as Rangers manager
After calling time on his stellar playing career in 2016, ex Liverpool captain Gerrard towed the path of most former players, by venturing swapping the jerseys of a player for the suit of a manager.
After testing himself as coach of Liverpool's U18 side, he was perceived to have performed reasonably well enough to be offered the coaching job at fallen Scottish giants Rangers FC.
The 38-year-old took to his duties with aplomb, successfully navigating Rangers through the arduous waters of Europa League qualification, thereby leading the club to the group stage of a European competition for the first time since 2011.
He guided the club to an unbeaten run across the first 12 matches of his professional managerial career, which only came to an end in a narrow 1-0 loss to Celtic in the Old Firm Derby in early September.
In the Scottish league, the 'Gers' find themselves occupying fourth spot, and they kicked off their Europa campaign with a very impressive 2-2 draw away to the more established Villareal, where they showed great determination and grit to salvage a point after going behind on two occasions.
It is widely known that great players do not always make great managers, and even though it might still be early days in his career, on evidence of the signs so far, Gerrard could be on his way to a long and distinguished managerial career just like his playing days.