Europa Conference League

Europa Conference League (113)

Aston Villa boss Unai Emery felt his much-changed side had produced a perfect night after securing top spot in their Europa Conference League group and a place in the last 16 with a 1-1 draw away to Zrinjski Mostar

Emery made eight changes from Saturday’s win against Arsenal, with goalkeeper Filip Marschall handed his debut and Jacob Ramsey making a first start for five months.

On-loan Galatasaray midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo put Villa in front just after the hour mark.

Although Matija Malekinusic fired a spectacular equaliser for the hosts in the closing stages, the result was enough to see Villa finish top of Group E ahead of Legia Warsaw.

Villa now avoid two play-off matches and so progress straight into the knockout stages.

“We are happy because our objective was to be first in the group, with this draw we are,” Emery said.

“We tried to play with some players who are not playing regularly in the season because of injuries like Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno, and with Leander Dendoncker, Filip Marschall and Tommi O’Reilly as well.

“It’s important for them to get confidence and minutes. Tonight was perfect with the draw and result and perfect to give some of the players chances.”

Emery added in quotes on the Aston Villa website: “We wanted to win, but our first objective is completely done: to be first in the group.

“We want to enjoy the way in this competition because for us to be in Europe, it is important to remember how we achieved it last year and how we are now trying to win a trophy.

“We want to enjoy it with our supporters and some supporters were here with us today. It is important for them to be together and enjoy this way in Europe.”

Aberdeen boss Barry Robson claimed his side should get more credit for their performances in Europe this season after a superb Europa Conference League victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Dons set up in a solid defensive shape and soaked up wave after wave of pressure before Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes combined with Shayden Morris and slid home the opening goal four minutes before half-time.

The Dons remained sound defensively and survived a couple of hairy moments before substitute Ester Sokler sent a powerful high finish past substitute goalkeeper Jens Grahl to seal the win against a Frankfurt side who thrashed Bayern Munich 5-1 at the weekend.

The Dons finished their Group G campaign on six points following their first victory in an eight-game European run.

“I’ve said before we’ve not got what we’ve deserved for what we’ve put into this European campaign,” Robson said. “We’ve only lost two games, and one of them here was in the 92nd minute.

“For me, the players have performed so well and I’m so glad they got that win because they’ve deserved more points than what we’ve got in Europe.

“Scottish football should see what we’ve done this year. We’ve had some stick and rightly so at times, but it’s not easy fighting on three fronts and we’ve done it so well.

“After European games we’ve had four away games, and at one point we played seven games out of eight away from home as well. It’s the emotion these games take out of you.

“We’ve scored 10 goals in Europe, and that’s not easy to do against that quality of opposition.”

Robson’s team selection, with eight changes from the side that started the win over Hearts at the weekend, more than hinted towards the Dons having an eye on Sunday’s Viaplay Cup final against Rangers.

“The boys who came in have been excellent and it was the same in Helsinki,” the Dons boss said.

“We got some other players on at the right times to give us a helping hand.

“The boys should be proud – playing in European group games is so memorable.

“Every single one of them works hard in training, every day. They’re a good group, they’re together, and we just have to try to find a way to perform well.”

Nicolo Zaniolo’s first goal for Aston Villa helped them seal their place in the Europa Conference League’s last 16 after a 1-1 draw against Zrinjski Mostar.

Zaniolo gave a much-changed Villa the lead in Bosnia and Herzegovina just after the hour-mark before Matija Malekinusic fired a spectacular equaliser for the hosts in the closing stages.

The point was enough to ensure Villa finished top of Group E ahead of Legia Warsaw to avoid two play-off matches and progress straight into the knockout stages, but it was far from convincing by Unai Emery’s side.

Goalkeeper Filip Marschall was handed his Villa debut and Jacob Ramsey made his first start in five months as Emery made eight changes from Saturday’s win against Arsenal.

Matty Cash, Alex Moreno, Leander Dendoncker, Moussa Diaby, Jhon Duran and Zaniolo also started.

Marschall did well to snuff out a through-ball as Zrinjski looked to put Villa under early pressure, but the former England Under-19 goalkeeper barely touched the ball in an uneventful first half.

Zrinjski, bottom of the group with just one win from their previous five games, showed little ambition in front of a home crowd of around 6,000, while Villa lacked the cohesion to trouble them.

Zaniolo blazed one effort over the crossbar and forced Zrinjski goalkeeper Marko Maric into a rare save.

Villa’s record signing Diaby fluffed his chance when missing the ball completely from Moreno’s cross as Emery’s new-look line-up failed to raise the tempo.

Little changed in the second period and Emery had seen enough after 57 minutes, sending on John McGinn and Lucas Digne for Ramsey and Moreno respectively.

McGinn made an instant impact, injecting some urgency and whipping in a cross for on-loan Galatasaray midfielder Zaniolo to neatly control before tucking the ball under Maric from six yards.

Calum Chambers and Pau Torres replaced Cash and Diego Carlos before Josip Corluka was flagged offside as he fired Zrinjski’s best chance of the match over the crossbar in the 71st minute.

Corluka missed another chance from a corner soon after to remind Villa the job was not yet done.

Duran forced Maric into a save with a first-time angled effort before teenage midfielder Tommy O’Reilly replaced Diaby to make his senior Villa debut a day before his 20th birthday.

Fellow debutant Marschall was almost punished for a howler when his clearance struck Torres but Aldin Hrvanovic failed to keep the rebound on target.

Marschall made amends by racing off his liner to deny Hrvanovic moments later as the Premier League visitors held on to their advantage.

However, Malekinusic punished Villa for not putting the result beyond doubt by thundering home a 25-yard equaliser in the 87th minute, but Emery’s side held on for the point they needed.

Aberdeen gave themselves a pre-Hampden boost by shocking Eintracht Frankfurt in a 2-0 victory at Pittodrie.

Goals from Luis ‘Duk’ Lopes and Ester Sokler gave the Dons their first win in the Europa Conference League as they finished Group G in third place on six points.

Duk slid in to score from close range just before the interval and Sokler sent a stunning lob past substitute keeper Jens Grahl with 15 minutes to go to net his second goal for the club.

The win stretched Aberdeen’s unbeaten home run against German sides in European competition to 10 matches and will send Barry Robson’s side into Sunday’s Viaplay Cup final against Rangers on a high.

With Sunday in mind, Robson made eight changes to the side that had beaten Hearts at the weekend, with only Kelle Roos, Stefan Gartenmann and young defender Jack Milne keeping their places. There was no place in the squad for Bojan Miovski, who has been suffering from a minor hamstring complaint this week.

Rangers’ 2021 Europa League final conquerors could not finish any higher or lower than second and they made seven changes from the side which beat Bayern Munich 5-1 at the weekend. Japanese midfielder Makoto Hasebe, who turns 40 next month, captained the visitors.

Frankfurt were keen to show their quality and striker Jessic Ngankam warmed the gloves of Roos as early as the third minute. The same man fired wide after 15 minutes, and then his headed pass for Niels Nkounkou gave the defender a shot at goal which was deflected wide for a corner.

Aberdeen’s European campaign has been characterised by a strong defensive shape and effective counter-attacks, and it was 35 minutes before their first real opening, as James McGarry found space to cross from the left, the ball nodded away from the onrushing Milne at the back post.

That sparked a prolonged spell of pressure, but Frankfurt almost hit on a counter of their own, as Jens Petter Hauge strode away only to see his angled drive parried away by Roos.

Aberdeen were emboldened by their earlier foray forward though and took the lead in the 41st minute. Duk sent Shayden Morris clear on the right, continued his run to meet the latter’s low cross, and turned the ball past Kevin Trapp.

The Dons defended well in the second half. Roos saved from Paxton Aaronson and Richard Jensen got an important foot in to block from Ansgar Knauff.

Just minutes later, Dante Polvara’s pass set sub Sokler in behind the visitors’ defence, and the Slovenian buried a superb shot past Grahl, who had replaced the injured Trapp at the interval.

Police have charged 46 men after Legia Warsaw supporters attacked police outside Villa Park in Birmingham on Thursday.

West Midlands Police said five officers, two police dogs and two police horses were injured when missiles were thrown by visiting fans during the Europa Conference League fixture.

In a statement confirming details of the charges, the force said 43 men have been charged with a public order offence, two with assaulting police officers and another with possession of a knife.

The statement added: “Those charged are aged between 21 and 63, and around 40 are believed to be from Poland. A small number are believed to be UK residents.

“All apart from one of the men is due in court today. He has been bailed to appear at a later date. A special court has been set up at Birmingham magistrates and will begin hearing the cases this morning.”

Officers are continuing to review CCTV and body-worn video footage to identify further suspects after “what was an appalling and violent public disorder”.

Two West Midlands Police officers, two from West Mercia and one from Derbyshire Police suffered minor injuries during the violence.

Detective Superintendent Jim Munro, who is overseeing the criminal investigation, said: “Our investigation is very much continuing and we’ll be reviewing footage and speaking to witnesses over the coming days.

“To charge this number of people so soon after such a major disorder has taken a huge effort by staff who have been working around the clock.

“We’ve had a number of messages of thanks from the club and fans who were present on Thursday night and saw the policing operation first hand, and we are really grateful for that support.”

Police said fans of the Polish side were not allowed into the stadium after missiles were thrown at officers before the start of the match.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street has called for European football chiefs to take “strong action” as he thanked the “brave officers” and criticised the “deeply unpleasant scenes”.

In a previous statement, Chief Inspector Tim Robinson said: “This should have been a great evening of football which was enjoyed by fans from both clubs. Unfortunately, there were appalling scenes which saw away fans dangerously throw flares and other missiles at our officers.”

He said the “extreme violence” left police with no other choice but to prevent away fans entering the stadium, adding: “The safety of everyone is our priority and clearly we had no other option.”

Aston Villa have lodged an official complaint with UEFA over the behaviour of Legia Warsaw fans ahead of the Europa Conference League clash at Villa Park.

Almost 50 people were arrested following violence involving the visiting fans prior to kick-off on Thursday night.

Missiles were thrown at police as the Polish supporters were held in a coach park near the ground before they were due to enter the stadium.

West Midlands Police said four officers were injured and, although the game started on time, no Legia fans were allowed in ahead of kick-off.

Villa also accused Legia officials of a “complete lack of cooperation” with themselves, the police and UEFA.

Villa said in a statement: “Aston Villa can confirm it has lodged an official complaint with UEFA over the conduct of Legia Warsaw Football Club and the behaviour of their supporters prior to last night’s UEFA Europa Conference League match at Villa Park.

“Four police officers were injured and 46 Legia supporters arrested after unprecedented violence by the Polish fans outside the stadium.

“This shocking behaviour followed Legia club officials’ complete lack of cooperation with West Midlands Police, Aston Villa and UEFA throughout the day.

“It started during the standard pre-match operational meeting that commenced at 10.30am on Thursday morning and was attended by UEFA representatives, including UEFA’s security team, as well as West Midlands Police including representatives from both clubs.

“Legia Warsaw refused to confirm if they would accept their allocation of tickets for the match at that point. This is in stark contrast to normal UEFA operational procedures.

“They advised the meeting that they would meet with their supporters at 2.30pm and communicate the decision at 3pm, but advised there was a possibility that they would not accept the tickets.

“Despite repeated requests before and after the 3pm deadline for a decision, there was no communication until 4pm when Legia informed Aston Villa that they wished to receive their ticket allocation.

“These tickets were handed to Legia officials immediately upon their arrival at the stadium at 6.16pm. To reiterate, Legia officials were advised on a call that included a number of UEFA representatives on November 2 that they would receive an allocation of 1,002 – exactly four weeks prior to last night’s fixture.”

Chris Heck, president of business operations at Villa, said: “The lack of cooperation and prevarication from Legia Warsaw officials prior to the match was entirely unacceptable and deeply disappointing.

“This behaviour increased the danger that West Midlands Police officers and our own fans were subjected to before the game and the scenes of disorder from the Legia fans have no place in modern football or civilised society.

“Aston Villa will be making further representations to UEFA in order to ensure that other clubs and police forces across Europe are not exposed to similar serious safety risks at the hands of Legia Warsaw.

“We are immensely grateful to West Midlands Police for keeping our supporters and our local community safe last night and are pleased that they will also be making their own representations via the UK police authorities to UEFA.”

West Midlands Police chief inspector Tim Robinson said on Thursday evening: “This should have been a great evening of football which was enjoyed by fans from both clubs.

“Unfortunately, there were appalling scenes which saw away fans dangerously throw flares and other missiles at our officers.”

He said the “extreme violence” left police with no other choice but to prevent away fans entering the stadium, adding: “The safety of everyone is our priority, and clearly we had no other option.”

More than 30 people have been arrested following violence from Legia Warsaw fans prior to their Europa Conference League game against Aston Villa at Villa Park.

Missiles were thrown at police as the visiting fans were held in the coach park near the stadium, before they were due to enter for Thursday’s group game.

West Midlands Police said four officers were injured and although the game started on time, no Legia fans were allowed into the stadium ahead of kick-off.

The force said in a statement following the game that 39 people were arrested after the “disgusting and highly dangerous scenes”, with one of the injured police officers taken to hospital.

Two police horses and two police dogs were also hurt.

Chief Inspector Tim Robinson said: “This should have been a great evening of football which was enjoyed by fans from both clubs.

“Unfortunately, there were appalling scenes which saw away fans dangerously throw flares and other missiles at our officers.”

He said the “extreme violence” left police with no other choice but to prevent away fans entering the stadium, adding: “The safety of everyone is our priority, and clearly we had no other option.”

Villa and West Midlands Police both released statements before the game had finished, with the Premier League club revealing requests to the Polish club before the tie for help in preventing ticketless fans from travelling went unanswered.

Villa said: “Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that no away fans were allowed into Villa Park for this evening’s UEFA Europa Conference League fixture with Legia Warsaw on the advice of West Midlands Police following large-scale disorder outside the stadium caused by visiting supporters.

“The UK safety authorities, UEFA and Aston Villa, communicated on November 2 that the ticket allocation for away fans for this fixture would be reduced to 1,002 on the advice of safety authorities as a result of previous large-scale disorder caused by Legia fans last month at AZ Alkmaar.

“A number of Dutch police officers were injured during that disorder. As a consequence, UEFA banned Legia supporters from travelling to Mostar for their game against HSK Zrinjski.

“In spite of numerous requests for cooperation from Legia Warsaw concerning their travelling supporters, especially in the last two days, no assistance on the serious safety matter of away fans attending Villa Park was forthcoming from the visiting club.

“The club has repeatedly, including this morning, raised concerns in conjunction with UEFA and all the relevant authorities to Legia that ticketless away supporters were attempting to attend Villa Park.”

Villa said Legia fans “engaged in planned and systematic violent acts against West Midlands Police officers” about an hour before kick-off.

The club added: “Aston Villa strongly condemns the behaviour of those visiting supporters and would like to thank West Midlands Police for their professionalism in very difficult circumstances.”

In its own pre-game statement, the Polish side accused Villa of restricting access to their fans in a move it called “counterproductive and baseless”.

It said senior executives, including the club’s owner, made the decision to boycott the game in response to the move.

Legia coach Kosta Runjaic refused to be drawn on the disorder in the post-match press conference.

He said: “I think its a different topic, it’s not my business. I’ve been in a big focus to lead the team. We represented Polish football in a good way, all other things outside the stadium I don’t want to comment.

“We have great fans, they support us home and away. We can always count on them. So far since I’ve been at Legia I’ve had a good experience with our fans. I don’t know the content of it all happening.

“I don’t know the details, which is why it’s better I don’t speak too much about it. Unfortunately our fans weren’t in the stadium and the atmosphere would have been better.

“It’s not about the fans, it’s a pity but we can’t change it.”

Unai Emery urged Aston Villa to finish the job after they booked their spot in the Europa Conference League knockout stages.

The manager wants to seal top spot in Group E following Thursday’s 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw.

Alex Moreno’s winner – on his first appearance since May following a hamstring injury – earned victory after Moussa Diaby’s opener was cancelled out by Ernest Muci in the first half.

Victory came after Legia fans clashed with police before the game – injuring three officers – which saw the supporters barred from Villa Park.

Villa moved above Legia at the top of the group and need a point in Mostar, the final group game, next month to guarantee their last 16 spot.

Emery said: “I’m really happy because we started this competition losing in Warsaw. We wanted to show how we have improved after that match and we played well.

“We were professional, feeling good, feeling strong and we want to finish first. It’s not complete yet but we are close to it.

“This competition is very important, it’s a trophy and trying to get minutes for some players. Alex Moreno has come back, Jacob Ramsey, Jhon Duran got 90 minutes and as a team we had to get performances with every player.”

Diaby struck after four minutes when he was sent scampering down the right by Youri Tielemans before cutting inside and finding the corner.

Jhon Duran went close to adding a second before Legia cashed in on a terrible error by Boubacar Kamara after 20 minutes.

The midfielder received the ball from Robin Olsen on the edge of the box but passed straight to Muci, who found the top corner.

Encouraged, Legia settled and went close three minutes into the second half when Gil Dias’ header hit the bar.

But it sparked Villa back into life and, after Kacper Tobiasz denied Diaby, Moreno netted a 59th-minute winner when he volleyed in Douglas Luiz’s free kick.

Legia, who beat Villa 3-2 in the opening game in September, are three points behind and are now facing a last 32 tie against a side dropping down from the Europa League in February.

Boss Kosta Runjaic said: “It’s the expected result but we faced it in a pretty good way. Villa have a lot of power at home and are unbeaten since February.

“The first half was equal, we tried to play with courage and scored a fantastic goal. Villa played a good game but we could have defended their free-kick better and in the end it was a deserved win for Villa.

“Now we have one game left, we will be well-prepared.”

Alex Moreno fired Aston Villa into the Europa Conference League knockout stages after a 2-1 win over Legia Warsaw.

The defender’s first goal, on his first appearance of the season following a hamstring injury, sent Unai Emery’s side top of Group E.

Moussa Diaby opened the scoring before Ernest Muci seized on Boubacar Kamara’s defensive gaffe to level.

Victory came after Legia fans clashed with police pre-match, launching missiles and injuring three officers to ensure there were no visiting supporters inside Villa Park.

Around 2,000 fans had gathered, despite Legia having a restricted allocation of 1,000 following supporters’ behaviour in Alkmaar, and were barred from entering the stadium, sparking a row between the clubs with both issuing statements criticising each other.

There was no love lost between the clubs, yet it was a fairly forgettable game.

Four years ago this week Villa boss Unai Emery was sacked by Arsenal after overseeing their longest winless run since 1992.

He lasted just 18 months after replacing Arsene Wenger at the Emirates but recovered to win the Europa League with Villarreal, the fourth time he had lifted the trophy.

Having taken Villa back into Europe for the first time in 13 years, they reached the knockout stage of the newest competition with a game to spare, although need a point in Mostar in two weeks to book top spot.

Legia beat them 3-2 in Warsaw in the opening game in September, opening the scoring after just three minutes, but this time it took the hosts 60 seconds longer to take the lead.

Youri Tielemans sent Diaby clear down the right and with the freedom to cut inside, with Artur Jedrzejczyk rapidly backpedalling, he curled into the bottom corner.

Emery’s side went for the kill and Jhon Duran’s pace saw him tear past Steve Kapuadi and Jedrzejczyk, only to be denied by Kacper Tobiasz before Clement Lenglet nodded the resulting corner wide.

The hosts were in control – with no Legia fans in the stadium – but Villa Park was silenced after 20 minutes.

It was all of the hosts’ own making when Robin Olsen, handed a rare start, found Kamara on the edge of the area only for the midfielder to play a blind pass straight to Muci.

The Albania international, who scored twice against Villa in September, still had plenty to do but kept his cool to lift a fine effort over the stranded Olsen from the edge of the box.

With it, Villa lost their mojo and Legia flourished although it took until three minutes after the break for them to go close to adding a second.

Pawel Wszolek crossed and Gil Dias stooped to send a looping header onto the top of the bar with Olsen beaten.

The escape roused Villa and Tobiasz thwarted Diaby before Moreno grabbed the winner after 59 minutes.

The left back, making his first appearance since May, latched onto Douglas Luiz’s free-kick to hook in from close range.

From then, Villa saw the game out and could have even had a third with three minutes left when Leon Bailey hit the bar after lobbing Tobiasz.

Aston Villa have condemned the violence from Legia Warsaw fans which left police injured before their Europa Conference League game at Villa Park.

Missiles were thrown at police as the visiting fans were held in the coach park near the stadium, before they were due to enter for Thursday’s group game.

Three police officers were injured and although the game started on time, no Legia fans were allowed into the stadium ahead of kick-off.

Villa and West Midlands Police both released statements before the game had finished, with the Premier League club revealing requests to the Polish club before the tie for help in preventing ticketless fans from travelling went unanswered.

Villa said: “Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that no away fans were allowed into Villa Park for this evening’s UEFA Europa Conference League fixture with Legia Warsaw on the advice of West Midlands Police following large-scale disorder outside the stadium caused by visiting supporters.

“The UK safety authorities, UEFA and Aston Villa, communicated on November 2 that the ticket allocation for away fans for this fixture would be reduced to 1,002 on the advice of safety authorities as a result of previous large-scale disorder caused by Legia fans last month at AZ Alkmaar.

“A number of Dutch police officers were injured during that disorder. As a consequence, UEFA banned Legia supporters from travelling to Mostar for their game against HSK Zrinjski.

“In spite of numerous requests for cooperation from Legia Warsaw concerning their travelling supporters, especially in the last two days, no assistance on the serious safety matter of away fans attending Villa Park was forthcoming from the visiting club.

“The club has repeatedly, including this morning, raised concerns in conjunction with UEFA and all the relevant authorities to Legia that ticketless away supporters were attempting to attend Villa Park.”

Villa said Legia fans “engaged in planned and systematic violent acts against West Midlands Police officers” about an hour before kick-off.

The club added: “Aston Villa strongly condemns the behaviour of those visiting supporters and would like to thank West Midlands Police for their professionalism in very difficult circumstances.

A Birmingham Police statement on X, formerly Twitter, read: “We’re currently unable to allow away fans into Villa Park following disorder outside the stadium which has seen missiles thrown at officers.

“Three officers have already been injured & a significant policing operation continues. Please avoid Witton Lane where possible.”

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