Manchester City soothed their domestic woes with a resounding 3-0 defeat of FC Salzburg to book their place in the knockout round of the UEFA Europa League on Wednesday.
Roberto Mancini side have slipped steadily down the English Premier League standings in recent weeks and they came into this penultimate round in Europe's second-tier competition looking to perform after a disappointing 1-1 draw with Stoke last weekend.
Salzburg had yet to win any of their four Group A matches, and the Austrians ultimately failed to improve those statistics in a match which looked decidedly one-sided. Italian striker Mario Balotelli, a summer signing from Inter Milan, opened the scoring in the 18th minute, doubling his tally just after the hour mark to take his goals tally to five in what has been an injury-delayed campaign for City.
England winger Adam Johnson made it 3-0 for the hosts in the 78th minute. "I like coming inside on my right foot to try and get shots off, and luckily tonight I got another goal," said Johnson. "It was tough, in Europe it's slower than the Premier League and that showed tonight, but we got the result we wanted."
Elsewhere in Group A Italian giants Juventus remained winless after being held 1-1 by Lech Poznan, a result which handed the Polish side entry to the next round.
There was more woe for Italy's Serie A when PSV Eindhoven's Ola Toivonen produced two second-half goals to give the Dutch a 2-1 away win at Sampdoria. The Dutch league leaders thus waltz into the last 32 with 13 points from four games, with Metalist Kharkov joining them from Group I, in which Sampdoria, on five points, have been eliminated.
Sampdoria opened the scoring in timely fashion when Giampaolo Pazzini headed home five minutes before the interval. PSV, however, rose to the challenge and Toivonen levelled only six minutes after the restart when he headed home Ibrahim Afellay's cross when alone at the far post.
Sampdoria suffered a blow late on when Guido Marilungo was dismissed following a second yellow card, and the Dutch giants duly forged ahead with Toivonen sweeping home a 90th minute winner
For drama, Young boys took top honours, following VfB Stuttgart into the knockout round thanks to a thrilling, five-minute display of attacking football which handed the Swiss a 4-2 win over their German opponents.
The Berne-based side opened the scoring thanks to David Degen in the 34th minute and led until early in the second half when Pavel Pogrebnyak levelled four minutes after the restart.
The Germans looked to be heading for a victory that would have maintained their 100 per cent group record after taking the lead through Sven Schipplock, until Scott Sutter produced a 78th-minute equaliser. Emmanuel Mayuka then scored a late double to hand the Swiss side a superb home win.
Elsewhere Bayer Leverkusen and Sporting Lisbon progressed after 1-0 wins over Rosenborg and Lille respectively. For holders Atletico Madrid meanwhile it will all come down to their final Group B fixture after the Spaniards were shocked 3-2 at home by Aris Thessaloniki. With Bayer already qualified from Group B on 11 points, Aris and Atletico both have seven, four more than Rosenborg.