The return of the UEFA Europa League this morning brought with it the chance to mount qualification claims for our Aussies Abroad.
And while there were no wins for our overseas Australians during this morning’s round of fixtures, the likes of Danny Vukovic, Apostolos Giannou and Alex Gersbach mustered strong displays on the European stage.
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One of the most eye-catching performances came from Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, whose Genk side went down 3-1 to Norwegian outfit Sarpsborg.
Vukovic was engaged in an ongoing duel with Sarpsborg’s Patrick Mortensen, who beat the goalkeeper in each half but saw a rasping drive pushed away superbly late in the first stanza.
The 33-year-old was also given no chance when Kristoffer Zachariassen capitalised early in the second after some pinball action in the penalty area, but Vukovic would go on to make the save of the match late on when he acrobatically tipped over Matti Lund Nielsen’s pile-driver.
Remarkably, the result leaves all four Group I teams level on three points and zero goal difference, with Sarpsborg edging Genk into pole position by virtue of goals scored, ahead of Besiktas and Malmo.
Elsewhere, Apostolos Giannou and AEK Larnaca were beaten 4-2 by Bayer Leverkusen.
The Caltex Socceroos striker proved a handful early on for the Leverkusen defenders, and it looked as though a major upset was on the cards when Larnaca’s Ivan Trickovski opened the scoring midway through the first half.
However, a Kai Havertz reply on the half time whistle and Lucas Alario’s second half brace steadied the ship for the Bundesliga outfit, with Giannou turning in an industrious performance before his 89th minute substitution. Larnaca sit bottom of Group A with no points but could be bolstered by a positive display against the former competition winners.
Alex Gersbach was also in UEFA Europa League action but couldn’t help his Rosenborg side avoid a 3-1 defeat to Bundesliga team RB Leipzig.
The young left back offered solid attacking intent during the match but goals from Jean-Kevin Augustin, Ibrahima Konate and Matheus Cunha were enough to send Leipzig on their way.
That result leaves Rosenborg bottom of Group B, but with left back Birger Meling currently injured, Gersbach could be handed further opportunity to help revive the team’s European assault.
Jurman’s Al-Ittihad beaten in Saudi Arabia
Over in Saudi Arabia, Matthew Jurman played the full 90 minutes as Al-Ittihad went down 2-0 to Al-Fateh in this morning’s Saudi Pro League clash.
The result is a fourth defeat from five for Juman’s side, but his case wasn’t helped following a second-half red card to defensive partner Ziyad Al-Sahafi.
Jurman and Al-Ittihad will look to regroup ahead of their home clash with Ohod in two weeks’ time.
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