LONDON:Manchester City, making a long-awaited return to the competition, and former European champions Red Star Belgrade got off to flying starts in the UEFA Cup with 5-0 victories in Thursday’s qualifiers.
Torpedo Moscow also made their mark in the line-up of 37 games when they were another side to hit five in the first-leg of the qualifying round.
Nikola Zigic scored a hat-trick in the Serbia and Montenegro side’s thrashing of Nistru Otaci of Moldova. Nemanja Vidic and Branko Boskovic wrapped up the win for Red Star, who won the European Cup in 1991.
Manchester City, so long in the shadow of local rivals United, were playing their first European match for 24 years when they crushed Welsh part-timers TNS Llansantffraid in the first competitive match at their new City of Manchester Stadium.
England midfielder Trevor Sinclair opened the scoring after 14 minutes and Shaun Wright-Phillips, Chinese defender Sun Jihai, David Sommeil and striker Nicolas Anelka provided the other four goals, all in the second half.
City, who won the Cup Winners Cup in 1970, last played in Europe in the 1978-79 season, when they lost to eventual winners Borussia Moenchengladbach in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals. The English club qualified via the Fair Play league after finishing ninth last season.
Steaua Bucharest were held to a 1-1 draw at Neman Grodno in Belarus. The Romanians looked to be heading for defeat when Dmitry Dolya put the home side ahead on 70 minutes before Daniel Oprita got a last-gasp equaliser.
Torpedo Moscow crushed San Marino side Domagnano 5-0 in a game which was also notable for the debut of astro-turf in European club competition.
There was another notable first in Sweden where 36-year-old Swiss Nicole Petignat became the first woman to referee a UEFA Cup match when she took charge of AIK Stockholm’s 1-0 win over Fylkir from Iceland.
RC Lens, who finished above Bayern Munich in a Champions League group that also contained Deportivo Coruna and eventual champions AC Milan last season, started well in their UEFA Cup campaign with a 3-0 win over Torpedo Kutaisi of Georgia.
The 16 teams knocked out of the Champions League third qualifying round will enter the UEFA Cup in the next round, along with three “winners” of the Intertoto Cup.
A further eight teams, who finish third in their Champions League groups, will also enter the UEFA Cup, at the third round stage. – Reuters