UCL Qualifiers: Celtic, Valencia earn home wins; Basel in trouble
Action from the UEFA Champions League qualifiers saw Valencia earn a 3-1 win against Monaco at the Mestalla while Celtic went on to snatch a narrow 3-2 win against FC Malmo. Dinamo Zagreb emerged winners away by 2 goals to 1 against Albanian side Skenderbeu Korce. The other away side to win were Shakhtar Donetsk who came out victorious over Rapid Vienna albeit by a small margin of 1-0.
Swiss side Basel were involved in the only draw on the night and perhaps the most exciting finish of the night in a 2-2 draw against Maccabi Tel Aviv. Conceding 2 away goals and failing to win at home might be a double blow that Basel will find hard to recover from as Maccabi will go for the jugular next week playing at home.
The five games played on the night were a mix of both the champions and non-champions competition of the preliminary round for the UEFA Champions League. The next round of games featuring the return legs will be played on 25/26 August between the same sides.
Valencia 3-1 Monaco
The Spanish side boasting tremendous support at the Mestalla did not disappoint their supporters as they got off to a great start, scoring in the 4th minute through Rodrigo who was masterfully set up by Sofiane Feghouli. Nuno Santos’ side were on the offensive thoughout the half, trying to expose Monaco at the back but were themselves undone early in the second half as the French side’s Croatian midfielder on loan from Chelsea, Mario Pasalic was on target to level the scores.
Las season’s star defender Nicholas Otamendi did not feature for Valencia as links with Manchester City for the Argentine grew stronger. But they didn’t seem to miss him as Dani Parejo took only 10 minutes to put Valencia back in the lead and they would consolidate it with an 86th-minute goal. The 2-goal lead giving the Spaniards a better advantage to take into the second leg.
Celtic 3-2 Malmo
The Scottish side will be disappointed by the result because of the massive initiative that they lost in the game. Celtic got off to a blistering start, gaining a 2-goal lead in the first 10 minutes. Leigh Griffiths and Nir Briton on the scoreboard for the Hoops. Malmo’s Jo Inge Berget then got on the scoresheet to reduce the deficit.
Though the Scots would pull one back to retain the cushion once again through Griffiths, Berget would make better reading of the scoreline for Malmo by scoring in the 95th minute and make the return leg a little more interesting.
Basel 2-2 Maccabi Tel Aviv
The visitors surprisingly took the lead through their captain Zahavi, though it wouldn’t last too long as they conceded a penalty for Matias Delgado to convert only 8 minutes later. The home side would then go into the lead through a Breel Embolo strike in the 88th minute seemingly sealing the win for the Swiss champions but Basel had other ideas with Zahavi once again on target in the 96th minute to completely change the complexion of the tie.
Rapid Vienna 1-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Brazilian midfielder Marlos was the key man for Ukrainian champions Shakhtar as they earned a crucial away win against Rapid Vienna to all but seal their passage through to the Champions League group stages. Barring a surprise result in the second leg of the tie for Shakhtar at home, they will once again make it to the next round to compete with the big guns.
Skenderbeu Korce 1-2 Dinamo Zagreb
Minnow Albanian side Skenderbeu surprised many people by taking the lead in the first half of the game. they would have felt incredibly confident going into half-time. The second half, spoilt the party for them as Dinamo scored in the 66th and 93rd minute to steal the win.