Manchester City remain as favourites to win the Europa League after Mario Balotelli stepped off the bench to score a debut goal in a 1-0 triumph against FC Timisoara.
Roberto Mancini’s men laboured for long periods in Romania and were fortunate to survive a couple of early penalty appeals.
Balotelli only recently completed a £24m switch from Inter Milan but changed the game when he was introduced just before the hour and hit the decisive winner 18 minutes from time following good work from Emmanuel Adebayor.
City are 6/1 to claim Europa League success and will now fancy their chances of qualifying for the group stages in the return leg on home soil.
Liverpool are 9/1 second favourites but will face a tricky second leg in Turkey after Ryan Babel hit the solitary goal in a 1-0 win over Trabzonspor at Anfield.
Babel made his mark in first-half stoppage time when side-footing past Onur Kivrak, but manager Roy Hodgson will be disappointed that Liverpool failed to make the most of a hatful of chances that fell their way.
Christian Poulsen had a dubious goal disallowed for a foul on the keeper, while Joe Cole followed up on getting sent off on his debut against Arsenal by missing a penalty after Lucas had been fouled.
Aston Villa were the third English team in action and they are in a strong position of taking revenge on Rapid Vienna after securing as 1-1 draw in Austria.
Rapid knocked Villa out of the competition at the same stage last year, but despite picking a youthful looking side, Kevin MacDonald watched Barry Bannan put them ahead on 11 minutes
Atdhe Nuhiu restored parity before the break with the faintest of headers, but Villa remain 16/1 to win the Europa League for the first time.
Atletico Madrid won the Europa League last season and join this year in the group stages. They are 12/1 to make it back-to-back successes.