Like the Champions League, the Europa League group stages seem to be going down to the wire following another dramatic night across Europe. Shamrock Rovers’ quest for a Group A point goes on after a 4-1 defeat in Russia while Birmingham, Celtic and Tottenham all lost leaving their European campaigns this season in doubt.
Michael O’Neill’s men were in freezing Russia to take on Rubin Kazan. A feature of their campaign thus far is conceding early goals and it was no different in the sub-zero conditions. Nelson Valdez pounced inside the opening ten minutes to send the home side on their way but Rovers had different ideas and just minutes later Ken Oman headed in Billy Dennehy’s cross.
The Airtricity League Champions’ defence wasn’t holding firm and on several occasions was opened up by a far superior Rubin side containing former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins. Goals either side of the break killed off the game before Martins sealed the evening for the home side. 4-1 the final score.
Also in Group A, Tottenham fielded an experienced line up to take on Paok of Greece including Modric, Lennon, Gallas and Defore but it was the visitors who scored two early goals. Salpigidis and Athanasiadis scoring on 6 and 13 minutes respectively. Spurs were handed a life line just before the break as Stafylidis handled the ball on the line and the referee correctly sent him off and awarded a penalty. Luka Modric duely converted to bring Spurs back into the game but despite a second half on slaught the Greek side held on for a famous win.
Harry Redknapp’s boys need a hefty win over Shamrock Rovers in their final group game and for PAOK Salonika to beat Rubin Kazan. Things aren’t looking good for Spurs but it should be a cracker in Tallaght with Tottenham needing to come and score goals.
Standard Liege look to have topped Group B after a 2-0 win over group rivals Hannover. The German side should qualify in second despite Copenhagen’s 1-1 draw with Vorskla Poltava.
Group C is done and dusted after Wednesday’s games with PSV ensuring they top the group with a 3-0 win away to Legia Warsaw but Legia will finish second despite Hapoel Tel Aviv winning away to Rapid Bucharest 3-1.
In Group G, Metalist have wrapped up progression with a 4-1 home win over Austria Vienna. Malmo drew 0-0 with AZ Alkmaar which means Metalist cannot be caught at the top while AZ are in pole position to also go through.
At the start of play Birmingham, Braga and Club Brugge were all level on 7 points in Group H but the Championship side’s faith is now not in their own hands after suffering defeat in Portugal. Hugo Viana scored the only goal of the game just after the break to put them ahead of Chris Hughton’s men.
In the other game, Club Brugge stayed top thanks to a quite stunning comeback against bottom club Malmo. The Belgian side were 3-0 down after 68 minutes and somehow pulled it out of the bag to win 4-3 which was very bad for Birmingham. Former West Brom defender Ryan Donk scored deep into injury time to pick up three vital points for Brugge.
Birmingham can still go through though as they host bottom club Maribor. They should win that and they hope that either one of Braga or Brugge win in their clash. A draw between those sides in Belgium would put Birmingham even if they pick up three points.
Celtic have a mountain to climb in order to advance after yet another lacklustre performance in Europe. Atletico Madrid are now top of Group I after Arda Turan’s 30th minute striker was enough to pick up the three points at Celtic Park. In the other game Rennes drew 0-0 with Udinese.
The Bhoys have to travel to Italy to take on Udinese in the last game but a win there would take Neil Lennon’s men through.
Paok 11 pts
Rubin Kazan 10 pts
Tottenham 7 pts
Shamrock Rovers 0 pts
Standard Liege 11 pts
Hannover 8 pts
FC Copenhagen 5 pts
Vorskla Poltava 2 pts
PSV 13 pts
Legia Warsaw 9 pts
Hapoel Rel Aviv 4 pts
Rapid Bucharest 1 point
Metalist 13 pts
AZ Alkmaar 7 pts
Austria Vienna 5 pts
Malmo 1 point
Club Brugge 10 pts
Braga 10 pts
Birmingham 7 pts
Maribor 1 point
Atletico Madrid 10 pts
Udinese 8 pts
Celtic 5 pts
Rennes 3 pts
More reaction to follow soon on all of tonight’s games plus previews of Thursday’s games.
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