Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal Wednesday both chalked up home wins in the first group game of the Europa League on what was another good night for Spanish teams in Europe.
Athletic Bilbao's Carlos Gurpegi (L) challenges Austria Vienna's Emin Sulimani during their Europa League soccer match at San Mames stadium in Bilbao September 17, 2009.[Xinhua/Reuters Photo]
Athletic Bilbao went into its game against Austria Vienna looking for revenge for the UEFA Cup defeat against the same side in 2005.
The Basque side took the lead after nine minutes after Markel Susaeta sent down in the Vienna area. It looked like a dive, but Fernando Llorente showed no mercy from the penalty spot to put his side ahead.
There was no doubt about the second goal, however, as Llorente fired home an unstoppable volley after 24 minutes.
Austria Vienna's Tomas Jun (L) and Petr Vorisek are pictured in front of celebrating players of Athletic Bilbao during their Europa League soccer match at San Mames stadium in Bilbao September 17, 2009.[Xinhua/Reuters Photo]
It could have been 3-0 ten minutes later, but a shot from 16-year-old Iker Munian hit the post. Although Athletic had to thank keeper Gorka Izaizoz after Diabang went clean through for Austria.
Muniain got his reward after 56 minutes after the best move of the game. Llorente, Etxeberria and Andoni Iriola combined to leave the youngster with the easiest of finishes to make it 3-0.
The Basque side's task got even easier after 70 minutes when Marcus Suttner was sent off for a wild challenge on Muniain, but there was no further addition to the score as Athletic chalked up an easy win.
Valencia was the first Spanish side to kick off its European campaign and Unai Emery's side came away from Lille with a 1-1 draw.
Emery left Spain international David Silva back in Spain, while David Villa and Juan Mata began the game on the substitutes' bench.
The Spaniards suffered against the rapid counterattacks of their French rivals in the first half.
However, they looked to have won the match when Mata opened the scoring a minute after going on as a 76th minute substitute. The Spain international clipped the ball over Lille keeper Butelle, a former Valencia player after being put through by Joaquin Sanchez.
Lille leveled the score with just five minutes left on the clock. Bruno failed to clear his lines and Lille striker Gervinho took advantage of a rebound to take a point for his side.
Villarreal's Ivan Marcano (20) and Sebastian Eguren celebrate a goal against Levski Sofia during their Europa League soccer match at Madrigal Stadium in Villarreal September 17, 2009.[Xinhua/Reuters Photo]
Finally a second half strike from Villarreal striker Nilmar gave his side a narrow 1-0 win against Bulgarian outfit Levski Sofia.
The Brazilian, who is the club's record signing, collected a flick from Giuseppe Rossi to fire home the only goal of the game.
(Xinhua News Agency September 18, 2009)