Three clubs attain Europa goal
Athletic Bilbao, PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Lisbon qualified for the knockout phase of the UEFA Europa League on Thursday, while Roma took control of Group E by defeating Basel 2-1 at the Stadio Olimpico.
Midfielder Benjamin Huggel headed Basel into an 18th-minute lead but Roma quickly drew level via a Francesco Totti penalty. The Serie A heavyweights went ahead when Mirko Vucinic finished a sweeping move with a low, left-footed strike just before the hour but there was a huge scare for Claudio Ranieri's men with three minutes to play when Basel's Swiss international striker Alexander Frei flicked a shot against the bar.
Roma now lead Basel by a point in Group E, with Premier League representatives Fulham a point behind the Swiss side after overcoming CSKA Sofia 1-0 in west London through Zoltan Gera's first-half effort. "The second half was very difficult, but we started the game really well and should have taken two or three chances," said Gera. "They came out and attacked and we had to defend really well. We definitely want to go through."
Roma visit Sofia, who are now eliminated, in their final group match, with Fulham travelling to Basel. Goals in either half from Fernando Llorente and Mikel San Jose earned Bilbao a 2-0 win at Austria Vienna, taking them into the last 32 alongside Group L leaders Werder Bremen, who beat Portuguese side Nacional 4-1.
An injury-time own goal from Tomas Repka gave PSV Eindhoven a 1-0 victory over Sparta Prague after a niggly match at the Philips Stadium, enabling the Dutch club to secure top spot in Group K. FC Copenhagen moved level on seven points with Sparta by beating CFR Cluj 2-0, thereby eliminating the Romanians from the competition, and the Danish side will go through if they avoid defeat at home to Sparta in their last game.
Group D leaders Sporting Lisbon needed just a point at home to Heerenveen but they had to wait until the first minute of injury time for Leonardo Grimi to cancel out Oussama Assaidi's 47th-minute opener and secure a 1-1 draw. Grimi's goal enabled Hertha Berlin to climb above Heerenveen into second place after they won 1-0 at Latvian outfit FK Ventspils despite having goalscorer Raffael sent off for two bookable offences late on. Hertha are six points adrift at the bottom of the German first division but will host Sporting in their final group game knowing a draw would take them through.
Toulouse maintained their hopes of a berth in the next round with a 1-0 home win over Partizan Belgrade in Group J. The Ligue 1 side won thanks to a 54th-minute strike from Norwegian forward Daniel Braaten and moved a point behind second-placed Club Brugge in Group J.
The Belgian club drew 0-0 at already-qualified defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk and will host Toulouse in a winner-takes-all final group match. "I'm very pleased by how the evening unfolded," said Toulouse coach Alain Casanova. "We did what we had to do. Tonight the objective was to get the three points without worrying about setting ourselves up for the match in Bruges."
Panathinaikos could have progressed with a draw at already-qualified Galatasaray in Group F but lost 1-0 and now need to draw at home to Dinamo Bucharest, 2-1 winners at home to Sturm Graz, to join the Turkish side in the next stage. Everton, Benfica, Hamburg, Fenerbahce, Red Bull Salzburg and Villarreal all confirmed their places in the knockout phase on Wednesday.
The top two teams from each of the 12 groups go through to the round of 32, where they will be joined by the third-placed teams from the UEFA Champions League group phase, which include five-time European champions Liverpool.