The Europa League group stage concluded Thursday, with just a number of places up for grabs in the round of 32. Here’s a look at what happened on Matchday 6:
Leicester City and Sporting Braga, having already qualified for the knockout stage, each scored 2-0 wins Thursday against Zorya Luhansk and AEK Athens, respectively, to finish with 13 points apiece in Group G. But thanks to their superior head-to-head record, the Foxes piped their Portuguese rivals to first place and set themselves up nicely for the round-of-32 draw on Monday. Cengiz Under and Harvey Barnes bagged goals to give Leicester their fourth win of the group stage.
AC Milan and Lille already ensured their progress to the next round, leaving top spot in Group H as the only thing up for grabs. The Rossoneri pulled off a 1-0 win at Sparta Prague despite a relatively inexperienced lineup – featuring Paolo Maldini’s son, Daniel – to lock in first place. Jens Petter Hauge, the emerging Norwegian talent, registered his sixth Europa League goal of the season – including the three he scored in qualifying with FK Bodo/Glimt before he joined Milan in October. Celtic dealt Lille a somewhat surprising 3-2 defeat in Glasgow, showing some fight despite finishing last in the group.
Maccabi Tel Aviv edged out Sivasspor 1-0 in a winner-take-all matchup to join Villarreal in the round of 32. Enric Saborit scored the only goal of the game for the Israeli outfit, which needed a win or draw to advance. Though inconsequential, Villarreal’s fixture against Qarabag was postponed due to several COVID-19 cases on the Azerbaijani side.
Jose Mourinho was rewarded for fielding a strong side on Thursday in Belgium. Carlos Vinicius and Giovani Lo Celso scored in a 14-minute second-half spell as Tottenham beat Royal Antwerp 2-0 to secure top spot. Antwerp finish second while LASK bagged three goals in 11 minutes to top lowly Ludogorets 3-1. Lask, who notched 10 points in the group, are the only side in this year’s competition with a double-digit points haul that failed to advance.
Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic’s first-half tallies were enough to supply Dinamo Zagreb with a 3-1 home victory against CSKA Moscow, securing the Croatian behemoths top spot in Group K. The battle for bridesmaids’ honors was a more alluring endeavor, with Wolfsberger progressing after outclassing Feyenoord by a 1-0 scoreline to mark the first time the Austrians have advanced beyond the group stage in European play.
Not much to see here. Hoffenheim and Red Star Belgrade were guaranteed to finish first and second, respectively, in the group after Matchday 5. Hoffenheim finish on 16 points courtesy of a 4-1 victory over Gent – five ahead of Red Star, who played out a goalless draw with Slovan Liberec. A tip of the cap to Gent, who join Dundalk and Ludogorets as the only sides not to register a point in the Europa League group stage this season.
Where do we start? In a wild sequence of events, Young Boys scored twice in second-half stoppage time to beat CFR Cluj 2-1 and advance. The winner arrived in the 96th minute, mere moments after Young Boys went down to 10 men. Cluj had two of their own players sent off in the final few minutes, with keeper Cristian Balgradean conceding a penalty in the 90th minute and Damjan Djokovic given his marching orders just before the final whistle. Despite losing 3-1 to CSKA Sofia on Thursday, Paulo Fonseca’s Roma still managed to finish atop Group A with 13 points from six matches.
Molde are off to the Europa League round of 32 after Magnus Wolff Eikrem’s brace helped the Norwegian club secure an important 2-2 draw against Rapid Vienna. Molde finish second in Group B behind an Arsenal side that beat Dundalk 4-2 to become the 11th team to complete the opening round of the competition with a perfect record.
Leon Bailey’s two first-half finishes ensured that this group would be low on drama. Thanks to the Jamaican speedster’s brace, Bayer Leverkusen eased past Slavia Prague 4-0 to secure the top spot in the group, while the Czech side finishes second. Both teams had qualified last week. In a meaningless fixture in Israel, Hapoel Beer Sheva topped lifeless Nice 1-0 to claim third place in Group C.
Rangers secured the top spot in Group D with a 2-0 win over Lech Poznan on Thursday to maintain their unbeaten record in the Europa League this season. The Scottish club struggled early on in the tournament before winning its last two matches to end the group stage two points clear of second-placed Benfica, who drew 2-2 with Standard Liege on the final matchday.
With only first place in the quartet left up for grabs Thursday, PSV Eindhoven snatched top billing from Granada after goals from Donyell Malen and Denzel Dumfries, along with a late Joel Piroe double, guided the Dutch delights to a 4-0 win over Omonia Nicosia. La Liga minnows and European debutants Granada will have to settle for second after seeing out a 0-0 stalemate against PAOK in picturesque Thessaloniki.
Willian Jose’s 92nd-minute equalizer in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Napoli ensured Real Sociedad’s passage to the round of 32. Napoli still claimed first place in Group F with 12 points. However, the real drama happened further down the table, with La Real snatching second from AZ Alkmaar, whose 2-1 loss to Rijeka eliminated them from contention. Alkmaar, who had already been reduced to 10 men, conceded in the 93rd minute to lose the game and finish a point behind Sociedad.