It may be seen by some as the poorer relation to the Champions League but for those German teams in the UEFA Cup, it is an opportunity to go for European glory. Germany's clubs did just that on Thursday night.
Kevin Kuranyi capped his first start since injury with a goal in a 5-1 rout
German teams saw European action as the UEFA Cup's newly established group stage got underway. Following impressive displays by their compatriots in the Champions League, VfB Stuttgart, Allemania Aachen and Schalke 04 added to the growing feeling that German clubs are regaining their confidence after recent embarrassing campaigns.
Bundesliga leaders Stuttgart continued their impressive season by thrashing Belgian outfit Beveren 5-1 in the opening game of Group G. A goal in each half from Cacau gave Stuttgart the impetus while Kevin Kuranyi, Philipp Lahm and Imre Szabics added the other goals to make it a night to remember for team and coach alike.
VfB coach Matthias Sammer was branded a failure after struggling to get the best out of an expensively assembled, talented squad of players at Borussia Dortmund but the former Germany international is proving his critics wrong as his new team go from strength to strength.
Stuttgart run riot over Beveren
Brazilian Cacau gave his side the ideal start with a goal after nine minutes and the returning Kevin Kuranyi doubled the advantage five minutes before half-time. Cacau's second gave the Bundesliga leaders a three-goal cushion eight minutes after the restart and defender Philipp Lahm made the score line even more emphatic 13 minutes from time.
Ivory Coast striker Romaric N'Dri hit an 87th minute consolation free-kick for the hosts but it was never going to be enough for last season's beaten Belgian Cup finalists and substitute Imre Szabics sealed the rout two minutes into injury time.
It was a further indication that Stuttgart have the hunger and desire to do well this season and have notched up impressive displays in the league so far and remain unbeaten after eight games. Their European form is also looking promising despite not having to face anyone who could be described as quality opposition. VfB demolished Ujpest 7-1 in their last UEFA Cup contest to advance to the group stages.
Aachen shock French high-flyers Lille
Aachen's European dream continues.
While Stuttgart's win was emphatic, Aachen's could be described as both surprising and uplifting. The lowly second division club, enjoying their first European foray after finishing as runners-up in the DFB Cup last season to double winners Werder Bremen, clinched the shock win of the opening stage by beating Lille 1-0.
Aachen, who played this match in FC Köln's RheinEnergie stadium because their own was deemed to small, can thank their captain Erik Meijer for the Group H victory against opposition which are currently flying high in second place in the French league after a run of six wins.
Aachen had most of the play during the first half and Meijer and fellow strikers Kai Michalke and Sergio Pinto all had good chances to open the scoring in the first period. The pressure continued in the second with Simon Rolfes and Sichone bossing the midfield and Aachen's three-pronged attack forcing Lille back.
The breakthrough came after 53 minutes. After many fruitless attempts at exploiting Lille goalkeeper Tony Sylva's vulnerability at set-pieces, Aachen finally exposed the Frenchman's frailties with another free-kick. Sylva came for the cross but only managed to punch the ball straight to Aachen's Landgraf, who crossed to the back post, where Rolfes chipped the ball back for Meijer to nod into the empty net.
Despite a late scare, Aachen held on for a famous and well-deserved victory to keep their debut European campaign on track and the dream alive.
Victory just eludes Schalke in 1-1 draw
Schlake let slip their Group A game after taking a spectacular lead.
Schalke 04 were unlucky not to make it three out of three for the Germany in the UEFA Cup after going ahead in the Arena Aufschalke after just eight minutes in their Group A opener with Basel.
Levan Kobiashvili gave the hosts a blistering start with a spectacular opening goal, bulging the roof of the net with a blistering shot from the edge of the box, and the Royal Blues continued to dominate the proceedings until midway through the second half.
But the one-goal advantage was already beginning to look under threat before Argentine midfielder Mathias Emilio Delgado unleashed his own text book thunderbolt with a curling free-kick which evaded the defensive wall and flew into the corner of Frank Rost's goal.
Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick will be ruing his team's inability to finish the Swiss off even after he sent on Ailton and Mike Hanke in a four-man attack.