It was a mixed night in Europe for the British sides as Celtic and Birmingham were both beaten. The Scottish side who were reinstated into the Europa League after FC Sion were thrown out, lost to Atletico Madrid while Carling Cup winners Birmingham were beaten at home by last year’s finalists Braga. Fulham couldn’t keep up their good start in Europe as they drew with FC Twente at Craven Cottage.
New big money signing Falcao opened the scoring inside the opening exchanges in Madrid when he was given a free header in the Celtic box from a corner. The home side dominated much of the first period but failed to break down the Celtic defence. The Bhoys hardly offered an attacking threat despite keeping the ball for periods without ever testing the Atletico back line.
Former Werder Bremen playmaker Diego ensured the victory for the Spanish side with a quarter of the game to go after a flowing move. Celtic are now up against it in a tough group. Udinese beat Rennes in the other game in Group I.
Championship side Birmingham City were outclassed at St. Andrews by Braga, who were beaten in last year’s final in Dublin. Chris Hughton’s men were underdogs and their task got even steeper when they conceded within three minutes. Nuno Gomes fed Helder Barbosa who in turn had a go at Boaz Myhill’s goal and saw his effort go in off the bar. In fairness to the Blues they didn’t give him and created a few chances on front of a very healthy crowd.
Braga doubled their lead on the hour mark when a deep cross fell to Gomes who was denied by a Liam Ridgewell tackle but the ball fell to Lima who just had to smash it into the net. Chris Hughton would have been happy with the way his players competed with the Portoguese side and Marlon King pulled one back for the home side with twenty minutes to go but they were unable to score and the away side confirmed the win as Birmingham pushed for an equaliser, Helder Barbosa scoring his second in injury time to give Braga all three points, final score 1-3.
Martin Jol’s Fulham drew 1-1 with FC Twente in Group K after an own goal from Mark Schwarzer before the break cancelled out Andy Johnson’s 19th minute strike.
Earlier in the evening, Tottenham drew in Greece with Paok and Stoke were denied a dream start by Dynamo Kiev’s late goal. Tony Pulis’ men had to settle for a 1-1 draw in Ukraine.