Steven Gerrard made his managerial debut as his Rangers side took on FK Shkupi in their first Europa League qualifier. Under the expectant eyes of the Rangers fans, with not an empty seat in sight, his team secured a 2-0 win to take to Macedonia, with encouraging signs – albeit fledgling – of the ‘relentless’, ‘full-throttle’ style that has been much hyped since his appointment.
With Egypt knocked out the previous day, Saudi Arabia joined them on day seven as the second round of games for groups A came to a close. Meanwhile, Cristiano Ronaldo took the lead in the race for the Golden Boot as Morocco became the third team to be eliminated, despite a strong showing.
As we enter a summer of international football, with the world’s best battling it out for the World Cup, at Spielverlagerung we will be covering all the action slightly differently from previous tournaments. Like we have done before with Champions League qualifiers, we will be posting a recap of each day’s action, featuring all of the games played. We will pick a feature match from each day’s action and complement it with concise reports of the other group games.
Kilmarnock inflicted Celtic’s second defeat in as many months at Rugby Park on Saturday. Having only taken over in October, Steve Clarke has already defeated both Rangers and Brendan Rodgers’ side at home, as well as securing respectable draws in Glasgow. Just as significant is the manner in which his team have achieved such success, showing a level of organisation rarely seen in Scotland.
Rangers hosted the first Old Firm game of the season already five points behind cross-city rivals Celtic after six games played. Brendan Rodgers’ side extended their winning run at Ibrox despite a resilient defensive display from the home side, which served to highlight some of the champions’ shortcomings.
Linfield hosted Celtic at Windsor Park for the first leg of their Champions League second round qualifier, in a game that will be remembered more for events off the pitch than on it. With the match moved to Friday evening as opposed to the originally scheduled Wednesday night to avoid the Glasgow side’s playing in Belfast coinciding with the ‘Twelfth’, an already unusual scenario was only compounded by Celtic’s uncharacteristically poor play in possession, albeit in part down to the home side’s good defensive organisation.
Celtic completed an unprecedented domestic treble on Saturday, as they defeated Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final, adding to their League Cup and Premiership titles. Brendan Rodgers’ side went unbeaten in all competitions in Scotland in the Northern Irishman’s first season in charge. Though they managed to win the league at a canter, finishing a staggering thirty points ahead of second-placed Aberdeen, Celtic were forced into a gruelling contest by the Dons to round off their record-breaking season.
Granada v Real Sociedad belongs to the group of fixtures which one does not tend to eagerly anticipate. Both teams are, however, interesting in their own different ways.
Stefano Pioli took charge of his first game for Inter on Sunday night. Having taken over from Frank de Boer less than two weeks prior, his first game was none other than the Milan derby. With Milan sitting unexpectedly near the top of the table – a testament to the work Vincenzo Montella has done in Italy’s second city – the task was to be a formidable one.
Rostov return from Amsterdam with what could be a crucial away goal in the first leg of the Champions League Qualification Round. Despite having the ball for the vast majority of the contest, Ajax hosts were unable to turn their dominance of possession into a victory, thanks in no small part to Rostov’s defence.