Gallery: Early Europa League highlights

Playoff round

West Ham United 0 Rennes 1

On the pitch, this was a disappointing night for the Hammers. Despite getting the point, they were not able to make their break through against a stubborn Rennes defence and never looked like scoring. Not surprisingly, they were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal as they slipped to a disappointing goalless draw at the London Stadium.

The game came a shock result from the French club. They were the better side in the first half and created the better chances, with Gregoire Defrel’s strike cancelled out by Marko Arnautovic in the 51st minute. In a narrow affair at times, Rennes did really well to counter the swarming of West Ham’s defence, and boss Thomas Tuchel’s decision to select two centre-backs paid off as they put in a fine display.

After the match, David Moyes was happy with his side’s performance, and a chance to progress to the group stages in the Europa League. “We did okay, we lost the game and got the draw. We’re very pleased. Good to keep in Europe.”

Santos FC 2 Liverpool 1

On the pitch, there was plenty to entertain fans at Anfield. After knocking out Hoffenheim the previous week, Liverpool’s long-awaited return to the Champions League has once again had the Anfield faithful dancing in the aisles. However, it is not all smooth sailing on Merseyside as they have drawn a first round round Europa League match away to a classy Portuguese side, São Paulo.

After a first half breakaway led to all three goals for São Paulo, it was the home side who looked to impress the more, but the defensive errors that plagued their second leg with Hoffenheim, did not cease to flow. With few chances to score, in the first half Klopp’s side were much more tentative than in their Champions League clash with Hoffenheim.

Liverpool could not convert their chances, but while some may have cringed at watching them lose control of the midfield, there was enough to entertain fans for 60 minutes of a dazzling display by Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren.

After the break, Liverpool created more chances but only took the lead after goals from Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane followed. On another night, Liverpool would have bagged all three, with Alberto Moreno missing a great chance for a second goal.

São Paulo’s celebrations were in high demand, and they were rewarded with a dream draw at home to Anderlecht. Although unsure as to whether they had drawn themselves, São Paulo didn’t let their jubilation put the brakes on a performance that earned them a place in the second round of the Europa League.

Monaco 3 Apollon Limassol 1

On the pitch, Monaco looked very impressive in cruise control. After not playing much football in the recent weeks they were very lethargic opponents for a Limassol side whose fortunes have been going from bad to worse.

The Monaco attack looked at ease and the defense was always content to let the hosts try to catch them napping. Monaco took the lead after an absolute whirlwind of a first half. The hosts suffered only two minutes into the match, Lassana Diarra winning the ball in midfield, dribbling through the Limassol defence and finding Kylian Mbappe who rifled the ball home with a clinical finish.

Monaco doubled their lead just a minute later when Djibril Sidibe produced a fine headed finish for his first goal for the club. Despite the inexperience of many of their midfielders, they still contained a Limassol side who looked to respond. With half an hour to go, Paolo Carrera earned the plaudits as he skillfully got past the Monaco defence, resulting in a delightful assist that led to Bafetimbi Gomis giving the hosts a commanding lead at the break.

Monaco still looked to be the team to beat, but they did create a couple of half chances before Gomis scored his second goal with 15 minutes to go. With the help of some costly defensive mistakes, Apollon Limassol were able to pull one back late on.

If Carlo Ancelotti’s Monaco continue to perform as they did in this last-32 first leg, then they are a very tricky last-16 opponent for Legia Warsaw.

Watch all first leg matches of the Europa League Play-off round at EA SPORTS FIFA 18

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