AMSTERDAM — It was opening night in the Europa League playoff round on Thursday, with Clint Dempsey taking the starring role thanks to a pair of goals in a Fulham's 3-0 win at FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk.
With his side leading by one heading into the break, the US attacker found space to double the guests' advantage on the slide from 10 yards. Shortly after intermission, Dempsey bagged his fourth career Europa League goal with a strong close-range header.
Elsewhere, Hannover 96 skipper Steve Cherundolo had a night to remember in topping esteemed Spanish visitors Sevilla 2-1.
Though the US right back was partially culpable on the away goal, he spent most of his European debut frustrating Spain wing terror Jesús Navas to no end. In the end, a Jan Schlaudraff double did in the champions of the 2006 and '07 editions, back when it was known as the UEFA Cup.
Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht have a foot in the group stage after rallying for a 2-1 victory at Bursaspor. The former Chivas USA ace had a golden chance to open the scoring early, but fired straight into the arms of England netminder Scott Carson on a ninth-minute breakaway.
In Denmark, Michael Parkhurst and FC Nordsjælland bent seemingly all night, but never broke in posting a 0-0 draw with Portuguese giants Sporting CP. Fellow US defender Oguchi Onyewu was an unused sub for the visitors.
Jonathan Spector made a 90-minute Birmingham City debut in their 0-0 stalemate at Nacional. The empty scoreboard was not for a lack of trying, though, as the Portuguese hosts spurned a few golden chances and the Brums twice struck the woodwork in carrying the majority of play.
It was a much unhappier Rangers hello for Carlos Bocanegra in Slovenia, with the Scottish champs blowing a lead to fall 2-1 at Maribor in stoppage time. Both Bocanegra, captured from Saint-Étienne on Wednesday night, and Maurice Edu worked decent full shifts in defeat.
Finally, Jozy Altidore barely saw the ball in 13 minutes as a lethargic AZ Alkmaar dropped a 2-1 decision at Aalesunds FK.