Ukrainian heavyweights Dynamo Kiev and Belgian champions Anderlecht each placed a foot in the penultimate UEFA Champions League qualifying round with convincing victories on Tuesday.
Three-time European Cup semi-finalists Dynamo defeated Belgian outfit Ghent 3-0 in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie, while Anderlecht prevailed 3-1 at Welsh minnows The New Saints. The winners of the ties qualify for the Champions League play-off round, when sides including Sevilla, Sampdoria and Tottenham Hotspur enter the competition hoping to reach the group phase.
Dynamo took a 19th-minute lead in the Ukrainian capital when Andriy Yarmolenko lashed home but they had to wait for the final 10 minutes to make the game safe. Former AC Milan and Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko struck in the 80th minute to claim his 58th goal in the competition and then set up second-half substitute Roman Zozulya to seal victory in injury time.
The New Saints had booked their place in the third qualifying round by coming from behind to defeat Irish side Bohemians 4-1 on aggregate, but they quickly ran into trouble against Ariel Jacobs's team. American international Sacha Kljestan opened the scoring in the seventh minute, with Jonathan Legear doubling the visitors' advantage 11 minutes later.
Craig Jones gave TNS hopes of a famous comeback when he reduced the arrears at the beginning of the second half but Anderlecht's two-goal lead was restored when Argentine striker Matias Suarez headed home in the 73rd minute.
Earlier, Austrian champions Red Bull Salzburg were denied victory at Cypriots Omonia Nicosia by an injury-time penalty from Congolese striker Lomano Lua Lua. A Gonzalo Zarate shot that squirmed beneath home goalkeeper Dragoslav Jevric gave the Austrians' a seventh-minute lead they looked unlikely to yield until Mendes da Silva's foul on Leandro allowed Lua Lua to make it 1-1 from the spot.
Unirea Urziceni of Romania held Russian powerhouses Zenit St Petersburg to a goalless draw in Bucharest, despite having Razvan Paduretu sent off in the 36th minute for tangling with Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
Czech champions Sparta Prague will take a 1-0 lead into the away leg of their tie with Poland's Lech Poznan thanks to a solitary second-half goal from defender Eric Brabech.
The second legs take place on 3 and 4 August. Wednesday's third qualifying round first leg matches feature four-time European champions Ajax hosting Greeks PAOK and Scotland's Celtic visiting competition debutants Sporting Braga of Portugal.