BERNE – European football was given good and bad reminders of its past on Thursday with an impressive 2-0 win for once-mighty Ajax Amsterdam over Schalke 04 in one Europa League game, but ugly scenes in the crowd at Lyon delaying another.
Anderlecht, like Ajax once a major force in continental competitions, snatched a late 1-1 draw at home to Manchester United in another of the quarter-final first-leg ties, while Celta Vigo beat visitors Genk 3-2 in a goal-fest.
There was an untimely reminder that the hooliganism which once plagued European football has still not been completely eradicated when crowd trouble delayed the start of Olympique Lyonnais’ match at home to Turkish side Besiktas by 45 minutes.
Dozens of fans spilled on to the pitch, with the French club saying the supporters were seeking refuge after being pelted with objects and fireworks thrown from high up in the stands.
Once the match got under way, Ryan Babel opened the scoring in the 15th minute to put Besiktas ahead, and the Turkish outfit nearly held on for what would’ve been a vital 1-0 victory away from home.
But the French side hit back with two goals in as many minutes in the closing stages, with first Corentin Tolisso (83rd minute) and then Jeremy Morel securing a crucial advantage for Lyon heading into the second leg.
Four-times European champions Ajax, now effectively reduced to the role of a springboard for young players hoping to move to the bigger leagues, enjoyed a reminder of what continental success was like as they outclassed Bundesliga side Schalke.
Ajax played plenty of the flowing football for which their predecessors were renowned and went ahead when Davy Klaassen converted a penalty after Amin Younes went down under a tackle from Alessandro Schoepf.
Klaassen struck again early in the second half, firing home from 12 metres after he was picked out by Justin Kluivert, the son of former Dutch international Patrick.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan gave Manchester United a 37th-minute lead in Belgium after snapping up a rebound, and the visitors seemed on the way to a comfortable win as they dominated the game.
Leander Dendoncker had other ideas as he out-jumped Matteo Darmian to head in Ivan Obradovic’s cross with four minutes left.
Jean-Paul Boetius headed Genk into a 10th-minute lead in Spain, but Celta hit back quickly as Pione Sisto, Iago Aspas and John Guidetti made it 3-1 before halftime.
Thomas Buffel pulled a goal back midway through the second period to revive Genk’s hopes and leave the tie on a knife-edge.