Athletic Bilbao hold out in Baku to advance in Europa League
Athletic Bilbao did just enough to reach the Europa League play-offs by holding Inter Baku of Azerbaijan 0-0 in their third qualifying round second leg tie on Thursday.
Paris: Athletic Bilbao did just enough to reach the Europa League play-offs by holding Inter Baku of Azerbaijan 0-0 in their third qualifying round second leg tie on Thursday.
Having done the hard part in the home leg last week, they moved into Friday`s draw 2-0 on aggregate.
Rubin Kazan of Russia came into their second leg against seasoned European campaigners Sturm Graz 3-2 up from the away leg and survived a brief scare when Josip Tadic put the Austrians ahead on the night.
But it was left to captain Oleg Kuzmin to steady the ship five minutes from the end with an equaliser which left it 1-1 to send Kazan through 4-3 on aggregate.
It was an unhappy night for Cyprus` two teams hopeful of advancing.
With Larnaca needing a miracle later on at home to Bordeaux to overturn a 3-0 deficit, both Omonia Nicosia and Apollon Limassol might have fancied their chances of a place in the next round.
But in the event, Apollon`s 1-1 home draw with FC Qabala did not prove enough in Azerbaijan as the home side grabbed the all-important winner 10 minutes from time when Javid Huseynov fired home from the penalty spot.
Omonia must have thought they had done enough in Denmark when they held Brondby to a goalless draw last week, but they went out with their heads held high after a 2-2 draw in the Cypriot capital.
Two penalties from Cillian Sheridan, in the 16th and 45th minutes, twice drew them level after Teemu Pukki had put Brondy in front in the second minute and again after 39, but that was how it remained and the Danes went through on away goals.
The relative big guns involved at this early stage of the competition were mostly in action later, with Borussia Dortmund, beaten Champions League finalists only two years ago, defending a 1-0 lead at home to Wolfsberg of Austria.
But Italian side Sampodria were facing a mission impossible away in Serbia where Vojvodina held a remarkable 4-0 lead from last week`s first leg in Genoa.
English Premier League duo Southampton and West Ham were both away, Southampton travelling to the Netherlands, 3-0 up on Vitesse Arnhem, while West Ham were up against it with their tie away to Astra Giurgiu finely poised at 2-2 after he Romanians grabbed a last-gasp[ equaliser in London.
French side Saint Etienne looked comfortably through as they were at home to ASA Turgu Mures of Romania with a 3-0 cushion from the first leg.
Bordeaux were in Cyprus against Larnaca with a similar advantage and Scotland`s representatives, Aberdeen were hoping to overturn a 2-1 deficit against Kairat Almaty of Kazakhstan.