Paris: German powerhouses Werder Bremen made light of the sale of midfield star Mesut Ozil as they walloped Italian side Sampdoria 3-1 in their Champions League play-off first leg clash.
Goals by Clemens Fritz, captain Torsten Frings and Claudio Pizzaro will have eased some of the pain of losing Ozil to Real Madrid on Tuesday albeit they are 16million euros richer for the sale.
Israeli side Hapoel Tel-Aviv edged tantalisingly close to a place in the lucrative group stages with a 3-2 away win over Austrian outfit Salzburg.
The hosts never really recovered from the shock of going behind to a third minute penalty converted by Nigerian international goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who scored several from the spot for his club last term.
Salzburg - who have fallen at this stage on three of the past four seasons - kept their hopes alive with a second-half penalty of their own successfully converted by substitute Roman Wallner.
Belgian giants Anderlecht also did their chances a huge favour with a 2-2 draw away at Partizan Belgrade with all four of the goals in the match coming in a manic 12 minute second-half spell.
Among the scorers were the hosts on-form striker Cleo - who grabbed his sixth of the campaign - while Roland Juhasz scored Anderlecht`s second to give them a useful draw.
The other two matches ended 1-0 in favour of the home sides, debutants Sporting Braga and Basel over Sevilla and Moldovan outfit Sheriff respectively.
The latter match was particularly bad-tempered with six players booked, five from Sheriff who also had Aleksandr Erokhin sent off for a second bookable offence.
Basel`s matchwinner was Valentin Stocker, who headed home in the 54th minute, and give them the upper hand as they bid to reach the group stages for the third time and deny Sheriff a cash bonanza yet again - the Moldovans have seen their hopes denied on the previous 10 campaigns.
However, the visitors will be heartened by how they ejected Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb in the previous round.
Bremen are favourites to join fellow Bundesliga sides Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 in the draw for the group stages after their victory over Sampdoria - who gave themselves some cause for optimism with a late away goal by striker Giampaolo Pazzini.
"I am sure that we will score a goal in Genoa, but it is annoying that we conceded a goal late in the game," said Bremen`s director of sport Klaus Allofs.
Coach Thomas Schaaf admitted he was relieved to see his side score three goals as they maintained their record of never having lost to an Italian side at home.
"We made life hard for ourselves at the start, but we improved after the break and - thank god - we scored some goals," said Schaaf.