Mario Balotelli made a dream debut for Manchester City with the winning goal against FC Timisoara in the Europa League play-off first leg.

The former Inter striker stepped off the bench to stun Timisoara and hand his side a 1-0 advantage going into the return game next Thursday at Eastlands.

City made the breakthrough with Balotelli showing a cool head to sweep the ball home from close range after being set up by Emanuel Adebayor.

Balotelli, 20, proved to be a handful and has already repaid the first part of his reported £24million transfer fee.

Ryan Babel handed Liverpool a slender 1-0 advantage after the first leg of their Europa League play-off against Turkish Cup winners Trabzonspor last night.

The Dutchman, linked with a move to Wolfsburg this week, struck in first-half injury time before promptly being substituted.

Liverpool should have won more convincingly but Joe Cole’s miserable week continued as he had a second-half penalty saved.

Aston Villa caretaker-manager Kevin MacDonald staked another claim for becoming boss on a permanent basis as his young side soaked up the pressure on an intimidating European night.

A year ago predecessor Martin O’Neill’s side suffered a 1-0 defeat to Rapid Vienna in the first leg of their Europa League play-off, ultimately heading out of the competition on the away goals rule.

But Villa now have a firm chance to avenge that exit after a 1-1 first-leg draw at the same stage at the Gerhard Hanappi Stadium, with 20-year-old Barry Bannan scoring the precious away goal.

Ballack scores

Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack scored his first goal for former Champions League finalists Bayer Leverkusen with a last-minute penalty as they eased past Tavriya of the Ukraine 3-0 in Germany.

Goals from Efrain Juarez and Georgios Samaras against Utrecht allowed Celtic to take a step closer to the group stages of the Europa League with a 2-0 at Parkhead.

Palermo are in the driving seat to reach the group stages after beating Maribor 3-0. Mass-imo Maccarone converted a 37th-minute penalty with the other goals coming from Abel Hernandez (39) and Javier Pastore (77).

Juventus are also in a strong position to advance after Amauri netted a dramatic 90th-minute winner that earned the Italian side a 2-1 win over Sturm Graz in Austria.

Play-off round, first legs

Paris SG vs Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2-0; Bayer Leverkusen vs Tavriya Simferopol 3-0; CSKA Moscow vs Anorthosis Famagusta 4-0; Hajduk Split vs Unirea Urziceni 4-1; Feyenoord vs Ghent 1-0; Genk vs FC Porto 0-3; Debreceni vs Litex Lovech 2-0; Galatasaray vs Karpaty Lviv 2-2; Palermo vs Maribor 3-0; Club Brugge vs Dinamo Minsk 2-1; Omonia Nicosia vs Metalist Kharkiv 0-1; Vaslui vs Lille 0-0; Napoli vs Elfsborg 1-0; Sporting Lisbon vs Brondby 0-2; Steaua Bucharest vs Grasshoppers 1-0;

Liverpool vs Trabzonspor 1-0; Celtic vs Utrecht 2-0; Bor. Dortmund vs Qarabag 4-0; AIK vs Levski Sofia 0-0; Sturm Graz vs Juventus 1-2; Getafe vs APOEL Nicosia 1-0; Dundee United vs AEK Athens 0-1; AZ Alkmaar vs Aktobe 2-0; Dnipro vs Lech Poznan 0-1; Rapid Vienna vs Aston Villa 1-1; CSKA Sofia vs TNS 3-0; Slovan Bratislava vs Stuttgart 0-1; Sibir Novosibirsk vs PSV Eindhoven 1-0; BATE Borisov vs Maritimo 3-0; Lausanne vs Lokomotiv Moscow 1-1; Gyor vs Dinamo Zagreb 0-2; Odense vs Motherwell 2-1; PAOK vs Fenerbahce 1-0; Villarreal vs Dnepr Mogilev 5-0; FC Timisoara vs Manchester City 0-1.

Played on Tuesday
Besiktas vs HJK Helsinki 2-0; Aris Thessaloniki vs Austria Vienna 1-0.

Second legs – August 26.

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