Top Winners and Losers After Europa League 2020 Round of 32 Leg 1 Results

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIFebruary 20, 2020

Arsenal's Brazilian defender David Luiz celebrates their win on the pitch after the UEFA Europa League round of 32 first leg football match between Olympiakos and Arsenal at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, near Athens, on February 20, 2020. - Arsenal won the game 1-0. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)
ARIS MESSINIS/Getty Images

Arsenal produced a resilient performance to secure a 1-0 win over Olympiacos in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night.

Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers also impressed in the competition, thrashing La Liga side Espanyol 4-0 at Molineux thanks to a hat-trick from Diogo Jota.

Manchester United needed an Anthony Martial equaliser to rescue a draw at Club Brugge, while Christian Eriksen scored his first goal for Inter Milan in a 2-0 win over Ludogorets.

      

Winners: Arsenal's defence under Arteta 

Manager Mikel Arteta has tightened up Arsenal's defence since being named permanent manager in late December and saw his team keep their third clean sheet in a row on Thursday.

The Gunners boss gave first-choice goalkeeper Bernd Leno his first Europa League start of the season and was rewarded with an impressive performance by the German stopper.

James Olley at the Evening Standard said it was a good call:

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David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi also continued their recent improvement at centre-back and look to be building a promising partnership under Arteta.

The Telegraph's Sam Dean praised the team's defensive performance:

Arsenal have had five clean sheets in their last nine games, and their defensive solidity and Lacazette's goal have put them in charge of the tie ahead of next Thursday's return.

        

Loser: Sergio Romero

Manchester United back-up goalkeeper Sergio Romero is widely considered to be one of the best deputies around but was guilty of a poor error against Club Brugge that saw the Red Devils go behind.

The Argentina international came flying off his line and then stopped, allowing Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis to chip the ball over the goalkeeper and put the hosts 1-0 up (UK video only):

Manchester United's defenders hardly covered themselves in glory for the goal either, but it was a rash piece of play by the experienced Romero and could have cost his team.

James Robson at the Evening Standard offered his view:

Romero has been a reliable presence when called upon by Manchester United in the Europa League, but a poor piece of judgement saw the visitors forced to come from behind to secure a point.

        

Winner: Ianis Hagi

Rangers midfielder Ianis Hagi highlighted his tremendous potential once again by scoring a brace to help his side come from 2-0 down to beat Braga 3-2 in a thriller at Ibrox.

The 21-year-old pulled one back on 67 minutes when he cut in off the right flank and fired a shot in off the near post to make it 2-1 (UK video only):

Joe Aribo equalised for the hosts eight minutes later before Hagi struck the winner with his second of the night from a free-kick that took a deflection on its way past goalkeeper Lima Magalhaes.

The goal sparked wild celebrations among home supporters and will surely increase interest in one of Europe's brightest young stars.

     

Loser: Ajax's Europa League hopes

Ajax were the surprise package in the UEFA Champions League last season, making it all the way to the semi-finals before being dumped out on away goals by Tottenham Hotspur.

Fast-forward less than a year and the Eredivisie champions look set to exit the Europa League at the last-32 stage after going down 2-0 at Getafe.

Jose Bordalas' side are enjoying a superb season at home and abroad. They are third in La Liga and beat Ajax on Thursday thanks to goals from Deyverson and Kenedy.

Squawka Football highlighted their rise:

Getafe are brilliantly organised, difficult to break down and have put themselves in a strong position to progress, particularly as Ajax did not score an away goal.

Ajax will not have given up hope of turning the tie around but face an enormous challenge against one of Europe's best defensive teams next Thursday and look set for more European disappointment.