Sunday, 13 December 2015

Europa League Matchday Six Review

After the Champions League group stage reached the end leaving eight third placed sides confirmed to drop down into this competition, the Europa League itself also ended the group stage this week with matchday six.

In a group where three sides battled for two qualification places, Ajax hosted Molde with the hosts needing a win to advance while the visitors could qualify even with a defeat. The Dutch side boosted their hopes of qualifying as they took an early lead via a 14th minute opener from Van de Beek before being pegged back on 29 minutes by an equaliser from Singh for 1-1. The sides remained level long into the second half with the only notable action before the end seeing Gudelj dismissed on 90 minutes for the hosts who exited the competition.

Fenerbache hosted already eliminated Celtic knowing that a win would guarantee qualification but a draw would need a similar result in the other game for them to advance. Their pursuit of a win was boosted as early as the 39th minute as Lazar Markovic fired them 1-0 ahead but they received a blow on 67 minutes as Diego was dismissed. Celtic utilised their numerical advantage to good effect as they levelled through Kris Commons on 75 minutes but a 1-1 draw was the best they could salvage.

Already eliminated Bordeaux hosted Rubin Kazan with the visitors needing a win and a favour from Liverpool to qualify for the next stage. They started their hunt for the win with a 31st minute opening goal from Kanunnikov for 1-0 before the hosts who turned the game around to 2-1 in the space of five minutes with strikes from Laborde and Rolan on 58 and 63 minutes. The Russians levelled with 14 minutes left through Ustinov for 2-2 and despite the hosts going down to ten men with Guilbert's 86th minute dismissal, they were unable to regain the lead and joined their opponents in exiting the competition.

Already qualified Liverpool had eyes on confirming top spot as they hosted a Sion side knowing a draw at the very least would see them join the Reds in the next stage. Both sides seemed to be evenly matched in an average 90 minutes that saw the Reds field a mixed team but in a 0-0 draw, they were happy to end the stage unbeaten while the Swiss side celebrated reaching the next stage for the first time.

Already qualified Borussia Dortmund had eyes on top spot as they hosted a PAOK side who looked for their first win with third spot already confirmed as their best possible finish. A tight game between the sides was settled by just a single goal as the Greeks sealed their long awaited first victory with a 33rd minute strike from Robert Mak to seal a 1-0 win.

FC Qabala hosted group leaders FC Krasnodar having already been eliminated but hoping to end with their first win while the Russians hoped to guarantee top spot having already qualified for the next stage. The visitors opened the scoring in the 26th minute as Sigurdsson made it 1-0 before they doubled their lead to 2-0 just before the interval through Pereyra. The gloss on a comfortable win for the group winners came as Carneiro struck for 3-0 in the 76th minute.

In a three way battle against Legia Warsaw to advance, FC Midtjylland hosted Club Brugge knowing a win would guarantee qualification as would a draw but the latter would depend on Legia's result while Brugge knew only a victory would see them advance. The hosts struck an opener in the 27th minute through Sisto and looked to be on course to sail into the next stage as the game reached the hour mark but they were soon pegged back by a leveller from Vossen on 68 minutes for 1-1. Both sides pushed for a winner but to no avail as they shared the points and in doing so the hosts secured their place in the next stage.

Already qualified Napoli hosted Legia Warsaw with an immaculate group campaign of 18 points in their sights while the Poles looked to avoid finishing bottom with a win. A seven goal thriller between the sides saw the Italians strike first with a seven minute salvo ahead of half-time as Chabolah and Insigne scored in the 32nd and 39th minutes for 2-0. Callejon added a third just before the hour mark before Vranjes pulled one back for the visitors to make it 3-1. However, any hopes of a comeback were dented within five minutes as Mertens made it 4-1 but Poles looked to have the last say as Prijovic made it 4-2 in the final minutes but even that joy left them as Mertens claimed his second to secure a 5-2 win and confirm a 100% record for Napoli atop the group.

Already qualified Rapid Vienna looked to confirm top spot as they hosted eliminated Dinamo Minsk who in turn hoped to avoid finishing in bottom spot. The Austrians struck an opener in the 29th minute as Hofmann made it 1-0 and they were two goals to the good by the hour mark after Jelic's effort for 2-0. Dinamo had the last say on what has been a disappointing campaign as they made it 2-1 through Abdussalam on 64 minutes but the goal was just a consolation as the hosts celebrated topping the group.

Viktoria Plzen having already been eliminated and guaranteed third spot had nothing really to lose as they hosted a Villarreal side who had already qualified but were hoping a favour from Dinamo would enable to try and top the group. The two sides shared six goals in a thrilling game that saw the lead change three times and started with Kolar slotting in an eighth minute opener from the penalty spot for 1-0 only to have the effort cancelled out just before half-time as Bakambu equalised for 1-1. Dos Santos put the visitors 2-1 up on 62 minutes before a rapid leveller just three minutes later from Kovarik made it 2-2. The hosts regained their earlier lead in the final minutes as Horava made it 3-2 but their joy was quickly dampened as Soriano Llido scored in added time to salvage a 3-3 draw.

Already eliminated FC Groningen hosted group leaders and already qualified Sporting Braga who knew a positive result would confirm them as group winner while the hosts looked to end the stage with their first win. However, the group standings were defied by the match itself as the two sides shared the points in a 0-0 draw which was enough to seal top spot for the Portuguese side.

In the battle to claim the remaining qualifying spot, Slovan Liberec hosted Olympique Marseille knowing a win for either side would be enough to qualify but a draw would see the French side claim a place in the last 32. The visitors started the better of the two sides and opened the scoring inside 14 minutes through Batshuayi before storming into a 3-0 lead with two goals in five minutes either side of the interval from Mdiba and Barrada before two goals in as many minutes from the hosts in the 75th and 76th minutes made it 3-2 as Bakos slotted in a penalty ahead of Sural's effort. Marseille sealed the win and a place in the next stage with a 90th minute strike from Ocampos who made it 4-2.

In a meeting between the two eliminated sides, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk hosted Rosenborg with both sides hoping to avoid propping up the group. The hosts started the better of the two sides and took a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute through Nasciemento who added a second on the hour to make it 2-0. Rosenborg went into the game without a win in their five games and the woeful streak was extended further as Shakhov sealed the points for the Ukrainians with a 79th minute effort to make it 3-0.

St Etienne hosted fellow qualifiers Lazio with the Italians knowing anything but a heavy defeat would result in them becoming group winners. A tight affair between the two sides saw Lazio open the scoring in the 52nd minute through Matri only to be denied the win with 14 minutes remaining as Eysseric struck to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw.

This group saw all but the eliminated Skenderbeu Korce remain in contention to qualify going into the final round of games with the basement boys playing host to Lokomotiv Moscow who knew a win coupled with a failure to win from Beskitas would secure top spot and qualification to the next stage.

The Russians started their task well by taking an early lead in the 18th minute as Tarasov made it 1-0 but the hosts did well to keep the gap down to one goal long into the second half and with five minutes left, the visitors were anxious of a late equaliser but they were soon safely in the next round as Niasse and Samedov struck in the final two minutes to wrap up a 3-0 victory and secure top spot in the group.

The battle for the other spot in the last 32 saw Sporting Lisbon host the current group leaders Besiktas who needed just a draw to secure a spot in the next stage while their hosts needed a win. The Turks opened the scoring in the 58th minute as Mario Gomez made it 1-0 but the hosts turned the game around with two goals in the space of five minutes from Slimani and Ruiz. Sporting extended their lead with a quick third from Gutierrez to secure a 3-1 win which was enough to leapfrog their opponents and claim a place in the last 32.

Already qualified Fiorentina hosted eliminated Belenenses knowing regardless of the result they would finish in second spot while the visitors looked to avoid propping up the group with a win and hoping Lech failed to better their result. The Italians sealed the points with a single goal victory courtesy of a 67th minute strike from Babacar to finish on 10 points and leave the Portuguese side to hope Lech suffered a heavy defeat in order to finish in third spot.

Lech Poznan hosted group winners Basel hoping to claim third spot with only their second win of the campaign while Basel hoped to end the stage with five wins from six games. The Swiss side needed only one goal to secure the win with the vital strike coming in the 50th minute from Bo√ętius which secured their fifth success and as the hosts only suffered a narrow defeat they sealed third spot ahead of Belenenses. 

Already qualified RSC Anderlecht hosted eliminated FC Qarabag needing a win to remain in the hunt for top spot while a win for the visitors would give them a chance of avoid propping up the group. The visitors took a surprise lead in the 26th minute as Quintana put them ahead at 1-0 only for his effort to be rapidly cancelled out by an equaliser from Najar for 1-1. The Belgians struck again just three minutes later as Okaka made it 2-1 and despite a battling spirit from the visitors to draw level, the host held firm to claim the win and leave Qarabag bottom of the group. 

Alike Anderlecht, Tottenham had already qualified and as they hosted eliminated Monaco, they knew that a positive result would be enough to secure top spot in the group while for the French side even a defeat could see them finish in this spot. A 35 minute first-half hat-trick from Erik Lamela saw Spurs take control with the midfielder striking in the second, 15th and 37th minutes to make it 3-0. Monaco pulled one back through El Shaarawy in the 61st minute before Tom Carroll completed the 4-1 rout for the hosts with a 77th minute strike. 

Eliminated Apoel Nicosia hosted already qualified Sparta Prague looking to move off the foot of the group with a win while the visitors knew a win and a defeat for Schalke in the other game would see them claim top spot. The hosts took a surprise lead as early as the 16th minute as Cavenaghi made it 1-0 and Apoel did well to maintain their lead past the hour mark before being pegged back by a 63rd minute equaliser from Julis. The Czechs built on their leveller with two goals in ten minutes from Lafata whose 77th and 87th minute efforts secured a 3-1 win which condemned the hosts to fourth spot in the group.

Already eliminated Asteras Tripoli hosted group leaders and already qualified Schalke 04 who knew that a win would be enough to see them become group winners into the last 32. The Germans took the lead in the 29th minute as Di Santo made it 1-0 and they were two goals to the good as Choupo-Moting made it 2-0 in the 37th minute. The hosts had scored four times in their five games but were unable to add to their collection as Schalke struck a third and fourth in the final 12 minutes with Choupo-Moting claiming his second on 78 minutes ahead of Meyer's 86th minute strike to complete a 4-0 rout.

Already qualified Athletic Bilbao hosted eliminated AZ Alkmaar knowing a win would see them claim top spot. However, they fell behind inside 26 minutes after an opener from Van Overdeem but went into the interval on level terms after Clemente equalised in the 44th minute for 1-1. The hosts completed the comeback by taking a 2-1 lead just two minutes after the restart with Mikel San Jose slotting in a penalty but their joy was soured late on as the visitors salvaged a draw with an 88th minute own goal from Teixidor for 2-2.

In a battle to claim the remaining spot in the last 32, Partizan Belgrade hosted FC Augsburg knowing that a positive result would see them advance while a win for the Germans would put them into the next stage. The hosts boosted their position by taking the lead after only 11 minutes through Oumarou but in the space of eight minutes either side of the interval they went from 1-0 ahead to 2-1 behind as Jeong-Ho and Verhaegh scored for the visitors. The hosts chances of a comeback suffered a blow as the game reached the final ten minutes as Zivkovic was sent off and their fate was sealed late on as Bobadilla struck in the 89th minute to confirm a 3-1 win that sent Augsburg into the last 32.