UEFA Europa League Report: Dec 1-2
Europa League Groupa A, B, C and D completed play on Thursday night when Villareal beat Dinamo Zagreb 3-0, and Club Brugge were eliminated after a 1-1 tie at PAOK.
Manchester City wrapped up qualification for the round of 32 with a resounding 3-0 victory over Red Bull Salzburg. Italian forward Mario Balotelli scored twice while Adam Johnson rounded off the scoring with a fine individual goal.
Elsewhere in Group A, Lech Poznan secured qualification by holding Juventus to their fifth consecutive draw in group play. The result means Juventus are eliminated without losing a game in group play.
Bayer Leverkusen clinched top spot in Group B with a 1-0 victory at Rosenborg courtesy of a Sidney Sam strike. Defending Champions Athletico Madrid were beaten 3-2 at home by Aris Thessaloniki and now sit in third place going into Matchday 6.
Sporting Lisbon wrapped up first place in Group C with a 1-0 win over Lille, while Gent moved into second place as they beat Levski Sofia 1-0. Gent now need only one point in Matchday 6 to be sure of qualification.
Manchester City secured qualification to the round of 32 with a comfortable 3-0 win over Red Bull Salzburg. Italian forward Mario Balotelli scored two goals and a fine individual effort by Adam Johnson were enough to wrap up a win that eliminates Salzburg from Europa League group play.
Balotelli opened the scoring in the 18th minute when he casually volleyed home a Pablo Zabaleta cross. City dominated possession for long periods but were unable to add to their lead in the first half.
Balotelli was presented with an early opportunity in the second half but fired into the side netting. Balotelli did manage to double City’s lead in the 65th minute. Johnson split the defense with a through ball that was latched onto by Patrick Vieira, the French midfielder squared the ball for Balotelli to roll the ball into an unguarded net.
Johnson completed the 3-0 win as he cut in from the left wing and beat several defenders before curling an excellent finish into the side netting.
Lech Poznan qualified for the knockout stages as they held Juventus to their fifth consecutive draw. Artjoms Rudnevs opened the scoring with a 12th minute header, Vincenzo Iaquinta equalized for Juve, but his 84th minute leveler was not enough to prevent the Italian giants from being eliminated.
Lech took the lead when Semir Stilic swung over a 12th minute corner, and Rudnevs rose above Italian international defender Giorgio Chiellini to plant a header beyond Alex Manninger.
As the game progressed the cold and snowy conditions worsened and the majority of the second half was played with white snow blanketing the field of play, and an orange game ball being used.
Juventus knew they were on the brink of elimination and poured forward in search of goals. Milos Krasic sent over a threatening cross that was headed just wide by Alessandro Del Piero. Krasic continued to threat and was the creator of Juve’s 84th minute equalizer, the Serbian international split the Lech defense with a through ball Iaquinta latched onto and fired home to set up a frantic finale.
Juventus threw bodies forward looking for the goal that would keep them in the competition. Substitute Alberto Libertazzi was presented with the best chance but could not get enough power on his header to beat Krzysztof Kotorowski.
Gent produced an important 1-0 victory over Levski Sofia in snowy conditions in Belgium. The victory puts Gent into second place of Group C and means they need only one point to wrap up qualification in Matchday 6.
Gent started fast andhad an opportunity ot break the deadlock in the 18th minute. Randall Azofeifa cut in behind the defense and set up Zlatan Ljubijankic, only for the Slovenian forward’s shot to be cleared off the goal line by Yordan Miliev.
As the game progressed the snowy conditions made passing difficult, but both teams still managed to produce chances at either end. Brazilian defender Wallace netted the decisive goal in the 77th minute when he arrowed in a shot from outside of the area.
Aris Thessaloniki stunned defending Champions Athletico Madrid with a pulsating 3-2 victory at Estade Vicente Calderon.
Sergio Koke gave the Greek visitors a shock second minute lead, before Athletico responded to go ahead 2-1 through Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. Koke then equalized with a second half penalty, before Nikos Lazaridis silenced the Madrid crowd with a late winning goal.
The Greek’s got off to a flying start when a defensive slip allowed in Kostas Mendrinos, who shot at goal only to see it rebound off the crossbar. The ball bounced back to Koke who stabbed it home to give the Greek’s a 1-0 lead.
Athletico equalized in the 11th minute and again a rebound off the woodwork played a key part. Aguero fired a long range shot that bounced back for Forlan to score his first goal of the group stage. Aguero then got on the score sheet for himself when he latched onto an Alvaro Dominguez through ball and slid the ball past Michalis Sifakis to give the Spanish team a 2-1 lead.
Athletico started the second half quickly but it was the Greek’s who found a 51st minute equalizer from the penalty spot. Lazaridis was felled by Dominguez, and Koke stepped up to smash home the resulting spot kick for a 2-2 score line.
More drama was to come as inside the final 10 minutes Athletico failed to deal with a corner, and Lazaridis fired home the loose ball to gain what was the first ever win by a Greek team on Spanish soil. The draw gives Aris second place in Group B and pole position for qualification going into the final Matchday of group play.
Bayer Leverkusen wrapped up first place in Group B with a 1-0 victory over Rosenborg in Norway. The decisive goal was scored in the 35th minute by Sidney Sam.
Rosenborg started quickly with Morten Moldskred a particular threat. First Moldskred whistled a long range shot just wide, and then the Norwegian striker saw his header bounce back off the goal post.
Leverkusen settled into the game and Patrick Helmes, who netted a hat-trick in the reverse fixture saw a goal ruled out for offside.
Leverkusen did break the deadlock 10 minutes before half-time when Sam collected possession outside the area and turned to fire in a long range shot for the lead.
Rosenborg pushed for an equalizer in the second half, and Steffen Iversen headed towards goal only to see Sami Hyypia clear his effort off the line. Swedish forward Rade Prica the raced clear only to be denied by Fabian Giefer.
Rosenborg continued to pour forward against stern resistance, and a Giefer save from a late Prica header helping Leverkusen hold on for victory.
Sporting Lisbon sealed first place in Group C with a 1-0 win over Lille, who will now need a win in Matchday 6 to qualify.
Lisbon dominated the first half and got their reward in the 28th minute through Anderson Polga’s first Europa League goal of the season. Polga had previously hit the bar from a Pedro Mendes corner, but this time made no mistake as a bouncing ball reached him and he hammered it beyond Mickael Landreau for a 1-0 lead.
Lille poured forward after half-time in search on an equalizer and the French team had the better of the second half play. Eden Hazard sent over an inviting cross but Tulio De Melo could not find the target with his header.
Lille went close to an 82nd minute equalizer when David Rozenhal’s shot was deflected onto a goalpost and Franck Beria had his shot saved by Rui Patricio in the resulting goal line scramble. That was as close as Lille would come as Lisbon held on for their 100th win in UEFA club competition.
PAOK and Club Brugge battled to a 1-1 tie in Greece. The result means PAOK head into Matchday 6 in second place one point ahead of Dinamo Zagreb, while Club Brugge are eliminated.
Vieirinha opened the scoring in the 25th minute for the hosts, but the spoils were shared courtesy of an 89th minute equalizer from Stefan Scepovic.
Both teams struggled to assert authority in the opening stages before Vieirinha opened the scoring with a thunderbolt strike. The Portugese midfielder unleashed a swerving effort from outside the area that flew beyond Stijn Stijnen to give the Greek team the lead.
Brugge struggled to produce a quality final ball but Scepovic did force a 69th minute save from Dario Kresic with a header.
Giorgos Fotakis spurned a good opportunity to wrap the game up for the Greek’s, and was made to pay for his miss late on when Scepovic tied the scores by heading home a Peter Van der Heyden cross in the 89th minute.
Villareal sealed qualification and maoved into first place in a tight Group D race with a resounding 3-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Giuseppe Rossi scored twice for the Yellow Submarine, and Marco Ruben was also on the score sheet.
The game got off to a hectic start and it was visiting Zagreb who almost found themselves in the lead. Portugese defender Tonel came closest to opening the scoring when he hit a deflected shot off the goal post. A scramble from the resulting corner saw the ball fall to the feet of Fatos Beciraj less than two yards out but goalkeeper
Diego Lopez pulled off a magnificent save to keep the game scoreless.
Villareal capitalized on their let-off in the 25th minute as they took the lead from the penalty spot. Ruben was sent clear only to be brought down by goalkeeper Ivan Kelava. Rossi stepped up to send Kelava the wrong way from the penalty spot and give Villareal a 1-0 lead.
Villareal had two chances to double the lead before the break, but Kelava saved well at the feet of Mateo Musachhio, the rebound fell to Rossi but Sime Vrsaljko produced an excellent block.
Villareal dominated second half proceedings and Cani hit a goal post with his shot before Ruben doubled the lead after being sent clear by Rossi.
Rossi made it 3-0 with a good finish across Kelava after being set up by Nilmar. Igor Biscan was dismissed in the 86th minute when conceding a late penalty. Marcos Senna failed to add to the score line from the spot kick but the game was already won.
The defeat leaves Zagreb needing a win in Matchday 6 to guarantee qualification for the knockout rounds.