Liverpool shake off Young Boys
Liverpool - Liverpool nearly paid the price for fielding a near second-string side for their Europa League Group A opener with Swiss side Young Boys in Bern on Thursday, but held on to win a thrilling match 5-3.
The Merseyside giants were the only winners on the night with Newcastle held 0-0 at Maritimo in Portugal and Tottenham also left goalless at home to Lazio.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, goalkeeper Jose Reina, striker Luis Suarez, first-choice defenders Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Welsh international midfield playmaker Joe Allen all remained behind on Merseyside for Thursday's trip to Switzerland.
And Brendan Rodgers' decision seemed it might backfire against a doughty Swiss side in a match with goal-scoring opportunities galore.
Liverpool, in their 100th UEFA Cup and Europa League match, went 1-0 up after just four minutes thanks to a most bizzare Juhani Ojala own goal.
A defensive header by Christoph Spycher rebounded off Ojala's own head into the net past hapless 'keeper Marco Wolfli.
But Raphael Nuzzolo pulled one back for Young Boys before Andre Wisdom made it 2-1 for Liverpool at the break.
The home side shot into the lead with goals from Ojala and, thanks to an excellent finish, Gonzalo Zarate in the 63rd minute.
But Sebastian Coates got one back to draw the Reds level, and impressive 20-year-old replacement Jonjo Shelvey bagged a brace to give the scoreline a slightly more healthy hue than it deserved.
Rodgers, whose team tackle Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday, said he always had faith in his young players.
"I don't see it as courageous or brave, I just trust in my players," he said.
"They are still coming to grips with how I want to play, we've got a long way to go. The most important characteristic is our fight."
Liverpool's Premier League rivals Newcastle had to be happy with a goalless draw with Maritimo Funchal, based on the Atlantic island of Madeira.
Newcastle had three decent efforts in front of goal, but all came back off the post, first from Dan Gosling and then two from captain Shola Ameobi.
They were then left to ride their luck as Maritimo's Valentin Roberge saw his own header come crashing back off the woodwork in the 80th minute.
Andre Villas-Boas is still waiting for his first home win as Tottenham boss after his team were held to a 0-0 draw by Lazio at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham's luck was out as Villas-Boas's side had three goals disallowed and Lazio emerged with a point despite being out-played for long periods of the game.
Reigning Europa League champions Atletico Madrid kicked off the defence of their title with a convincing 3-0 victory over Israeli club Hapoel Tel-Aviv.
Goals from Cristian Rodriguez and Diego Costa in the first half, allied by a third from Raul Garcia in the second period, saw the Spanish club stretch their European winning streak to 14 matches.
In Turkey, controversial English midfielder Joey Barton - still ineligible for league action following a ban picked up last season, made his debut for Marseille, whom he has joined on loan from Queens Park Rangers.
And it turned out to be a memorable night as the southern French club snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw with Fenerbahce, although Barton was substituted in the 71st minute with the score at 2-0.
"He blended well with the other players," said Marseille coach Elie Baup of Barton.
"He tried to play his own game and be clean with his passing. It's fundamental in our team to give as few balls away as possible and he was successful in this."
Inter Milan needed a stoppage time equaliser from Japan full-back Yuto Nagatomo to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Russian side Rubin Kazan.
Europa League results on Thursday:Group A
Udinese (ITA) 1 (Di Natale 90+1) Anji Makhatchkala (RUS) 1 (Traore 45)
Young Boys (SUI) 3 (Nuzzolo 38, Ojala 53, Gonzalo Eulogio 63) Liverpool (ENG) 5 (Ojala 4-og, Wisdom 40, Coates 67, Shelvey 76, 88)Group B
Hapoel Tel-Aviv (ISR) 0 Atletico Madrid (ESP) 3 (Cristian Rodriguez 37, Diego Costa 40, Raul Garcia 63)
Viktoria Plzen (CZE) 3 (Horvath 47, Duris 58, Rajtoral 80) Academica Coimbra (POR) 1 (Wilson 19)Group C
AEL Limassol (CYP) 0 Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) 0
Fenerbahce (TUR) 2 (Erkin 28, Alex 57) Marseille (FRA) 2 (Valbuena 83, A. Ayew 90+4)Group D
Bordeaux (FRA) 4 (Sane 13, Gouffran 27, Engels 47-og, Jussie 66) Club Bruges (BEL) 0
Maritimo Funchal (POR) 0 Newcastle (ENG) 0Group E
FC Copenhagen (DEN) 2 (Claudemir 20, Cornelius 74) Molde (NOR) 1 (Pape Pate Diouf 45+1)
VfB Stuttgart (GER) 2 (Ibisevic 5, Niedermeier 85) Steaua Bucharest (ROM) 2 (Chipciu 6, Rusescu 80-pen)Group F
Dnipropetrovsk (UKR) 2 (Matheus 50, Hutchinson 58-og) PSV Eindhoven (NED) 0
Napoli (ITA) 4 (Vargas 6, 46, 68, Dzemaili 90) AIK Solna (SWE) 0Group G
Genk (BEL) 3 (Vossen 22, Buffel 78, De Cuelaer 90+2) Video Fehervar (HUN) 0
Sporting Lisbon (POR) 0 FC Basel (SUI) 0Group H
Inter Milan (ITA) 2 (Livaja 39, Nagatomo 90+2) Rubin Kazan (RUS) 2 (Ryazantsev 17, Rondon 84)
Partizan Belgrade (SRB) 0 Neftchi (AZE) 0Group I
Athletic Bilbao (ESP) 1 (Susaeta 40) Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (ISR) 1 (Ruchet 14)
Lyon (FRA) 2 (B. Gomis 59, Lisandro 62) Sparta Prague (CZE) 1 (Krejci 77)Group J
Maribor (SLO) 3 (Beric 25, Ibraimi 62, Tavares 88-pen) Panathinaikos (GRE) 0
Tottenham (ENG) 0 Lazio (ITA) 0Group K
Bayer Leverkusen (GER) 0 Metallist Kharkiv (UKR) 0
Rapid Vienna (AUT) 1 (Katzer 66) Rosenborg (NOR) 2 (Elyounoussi 18, Dorsin 60)Group L
FC Twente (NED) 2 (Janssen 7, Chadli 54) Hanover (GER) 2 (Sobiech 67, Wisgerhof 73-o.g.)
Levante (ESP) 1 (Juanfran 40) Helsingborgs (SWE) 0