Europa League: Holders Sevilla go through as group stage ends
Holders Sevilla maintained their Europa League challenge with a 1-0 win over Rijeka in a winner-takes-all clash on Thursday as the competition`s arduous group stage wound down with a glut of goals but few surprises.
London: Holders Sevilla maintained their Europa League challenge with a 1-0 win over Rijeka in a winner-takes-all clash on Thursday as the competition`s arduous group stage wound down with a glut of goals but few surprises.
German sides Borussia Moenchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg plus Spanish outfit Villarreal were among the 10 teams who added their names to Monday`s draw for the last 32 when the competition usually cranks into a more entertaining gear.
Sevilla`s hopes of successfully defending their title, after a mixed group stage campaign, hinged on them avoiding defeat at home to Croatian side Riejka, whose own aspirations depended on securing a shock away win.
The Spanish side have struggled to rekindle their devastating Europa League form of last season having made numerous changes to their squad since they beat Benfica on penalties in Turin to lift the trophy in May.
Among their new additions is Denis Suarez, a 20-year-old midfielder on a two-year loan from Barcelona, and he lit up the first half with a superb piece of skill to hand the hosts the lead.
He skipped through a couple of challenges on his way into the area and calmly planted a powerful sidefoot finish into the back of the net.
Sevilla were totally dominant but failed to turn the screw further and allowed their opponents to emerge after the break re-energised with Andrej Kramaric and Zoran Kvrzic forcing smart saves from keeper Beto.
Sevilla, however, managed to see out the match to finish second in Group G behind Dutch former European champions Feyenoord.
The evening`s most spectacular moment was provided by Borussia Moenchengladbach`s Branimir Hrgota who scored a goal reminiscent of Karel Poborsky`s stunning chip at Euro `96 to help his side through.
Swede Hrgota scored twice, including an outrageous scooped lob that recalled former Czech international Poborsky`s goal against Portugal, in a 3-0 win over FC Zurich that helped the Germans finish top of Group A.
Villarreal followed them into the knockout stages after securing the runners-up spot with a 2-0 win at Apollon Limassol.
Lille came into Matchday Six knowing victory would see them finish in second place above VfL Wolfsburg in Group H, but ended the evening with their tails between their legs after suffering a crushing 3-0 home defeat.
Two second-half strikes from Ricardo Rodriguez, after Vieirinha had opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time, completed a miserable evening for the hosts who played against 10 men for 35 minutes and missed a second-half penalty.
Torino`s passage into the last 32 was eased when hosts FC Copenhagen had Mikael Antonsson and Mathias Jorgensen sent off in the first half of a 5-1 defeat in which they took an early lead through Daniel Amartey.
Two goals from Josef Martinez, a penalty from Amauri and further efforts from Matteo Darmian and Gaston Silva ensured the Italians finished second in Group B, behind Club Bruges who won 2-1 at home to HJK Helsinki.
Besiktas`s home clash with Tottenham Hotspur to decide who finished top of Group C was twice plunged into darkness when the floodlights failed in each half, but the Turkish side won 1-0 thanks to a close-range effort from Cenk Tosun.
Already-qualified Dynamo Moscow finished with a maximum 18 points after a 1-0 win at PSV Eindhoven in Group E, Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Swiss outfit Young Boys, French team Guingamp and Danish side Aalborg also made the knockout stage.
There was nothing to play for in Group D but the goals rained down with Salzburg reinforcing their position as group winners with a 5-1 win at home to FC Astra while runners-up Celtic lost 4-3 at Dinamo Zagreb.
The draw for the last 32 on Monday will feature eight teams, including Liverpool and AS Roma, who have dropped into Europe`s second tier competition from the Champions League.