Diogo Jota of Wolves and Daichi Kamada of Eintracht Frankfurt hit hat-tricks, but the man at the heart of the most remarkable Europa League display on Thursday night had a familiar name: Ianis Hagi, who inspired an unlikely Rangers fightback.
In the first leg of the round-of-32, Wolves beat Espanyol 4-0, Eintracht beat Salzburg 4-1 and Rangers beat Braga 3-2 at Ibrox.
Arsenal won 1-0 at Olympiakos and, in early games, Manchester United drew 1-1 away to Club Brugge and Celtic’s visit to Copenhagen finished with the same score.
In a battle between two European heavyweights Bayer Leverkusen held off Porto 2-1.
Jota, who hit three in the last pool game in November and had not scored since, struck the first from close range, the second from a narrow angle and the third from outside the area. Ruben Neves hit a typically spectacular volley and Wolves crushed the club struggling at the bottom of La Liga.
“We competed well and we were clinical,” said Nuno Espirito Santo, the Wolves coach. “For me, the organisation and another clean sheet is important. You know my view that everything starts from there.”
In Frankfurt, Kamada, a 23-year-old Japanese midfielder, hit the first after 12 minutes. Two minutes before the break he broke from the halfway line to score a second. He added a third with a header in the 53rd minute.
He then turned provider, starting the move which ended with Filip Kostic netting Frankfurt’s fourth.
Kamada has not scored in 17 Bundesliga games this season, but Thursday’s hat-trick gave him six in the Europa League, all in his last three games and scored over a span of 178 minutes.
He becomes the third highest Japanese scorer in European club competition behind Shinji Kagawa, who scored 11 for Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United, and Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino who has so far also scored 11, all for Salzburg.
In Glasgow, Braga dominated the first hour and led with goals by captain Fransergio and Abel Ruiz.
Hagi started the fightback in the 67th minute, cutting in from the right and shooting in off the post. His father Gheorghe, who won the Uefa Cup, from which the Europa League evolved, with Galatasaray in 2000, celebrated in the stands.
Joe Aribo then scored a remarkable second, weaving and barging through the massed Braga defence and when he finally burst clear, the Nigerian international finished with composure.
With eight minutes left, Rangers won a free-kick. Hagi stepped up. His shot hit the wall and then arced slowly into the corner of the Braga net just out of reach of goalkeeper Matheus.
Rangers had saved themselves with three goals in 15 minutes.
“I think we’ve rediscovered ourselves, certainly from the second-half performance,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told BT Sport.
“We showed unbelievable character, we ran hard for each other, we were more compact, more organised, we had a better shape and we were on the front foot more in the second half.”
Arsenal also struck late in Greece. In the 81st minute, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang chased a long ball and kept it in play before passing inside to Bukayo Saka. The youngster hit a hard, low cross which Alexandre Lacazette turned in from close range.
Olympiakos had seven strikes on target to six by the Gunners but Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno stopped everything.
“It’s my job to make saves,” said the German. “At the end when you have a clean sheet, I’m happy. We won this game and we have the away goal so we’re happy.”
Anthony Martial struck a crucial away goal as Manchester United came from behind against Belgian league leaders Brugge.
Nigerian forward Emmanuel Dennis lobbed a stranded Sergio Romero from 30 yards to give Brugge the lead on 15 minutes at a chilly, rainswept Jan Breydelstadion.
Martial though hauled United level before half-time with an excellent run and finish after pouncing on a defensive lapse from Brandon Mechele.
“It was a difficult game against a well-organised team, under difficult conditions. I don’t think it was one of the best games anyone has seen,” said United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“It was a bit sloppy in terms of concentration but conditions with the pitch and ball makes it hard.
“We got an away goal, we got a draw and we’re at home next week. Hopefully we can finish the job.”
Elsewhere, Celtic keeper Fraser Forster saved a late Jens Stage penalty in a 1-1 draw away to FC Copenhagen after Odsonne Edouard’s opener was negated by an effort from Senegalese striker Dame N’Doye.
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