Newcomers Sassuolo sink Red Star, Advocaat's flying start
By Brian Homewood
BERNE (Reuters) - Newcomers Sassuolo trounced former European champions Red Star Belgrade 3-0 in the Europa League playoffs on Thursday while Fenerbahce sank Grasshoppers Zurich 3-0 to give new coach Dick Advocaat a flying start.
West Ham United, eliminated by Astra last season, struggled against the same opponents again as they were held 1-1 in Romania in another of the night's 21 first-leg ties.
Sassuolo, who qualified at the expense of AC Milan, were promoted to Serie A for the first time three years ago and are making their European debut this season.
Representing a town with a population of only 40,000, they went ahead when 22-year-old Domenico Berardi turned the ball into an open goal after Matteo Politano's shot hit both posts.
Politano scored the second before halftime after a one-two with Berardi and Gregoire Defrel volleyed the third in the 69th minute for Sassuolo who could easily have doubled their tally against Serbians Red Star who won the European Cup in 1991.
Former Netherlands, Belgium, South Korea, Russia and Serbia coach Advocaat was appointed Fenerbahce coach this week, replacing the sacked Victor Pereira.
The Dutchman, who coached Sunderland last season, had little time to prepare but his team still swept visiting Grasshoppers aside with an early goal from Aatif Chahechouhe and two in the second half by Miroslav Stoch.
Mark Noble put West Ham ahead with a first-half penalty, awarded for handball, but Denis Alibec equalised late on for Astra just after Michail Antonio had missed a chance to double the lead for the Londoners.
Greek football briefly forget its domestic problems as PAOK Salonika won 3-0 at Dinamo Tbilisi, Panathinaikos beat Brondby by the same score and Olympiakos Piraeus triumphed 1-0 at Portugal's Arouca.
Earlier on Thursday, the Greek government called off the start of the new domestic season due to a row between the federation and the Super League over the selection of referees.
There were also 3-0 wins for former UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup winners Anderlecht at Slavia Prague and for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar at Vojvodina Novi Sad.
Rapid Vienna went one better, winning 4-0 at Slovakia's Trencin, as did Kuban Krasnodar who overcame Partizani.
Shakhtar Donetsk, surprisingly knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers in the third round, celebrated captain Dario Srna's 500th appearance for the club with a 2-1 victory at Basaksehir.
The playoff winners go through to the group phase.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)Published 19 Aug 2016, 03:04 IST