The Europa League took centre stage on Thursday evening but Shamrock Rovers couldn’t record their first point in Group A despite yet another battling performance against Paok. There were wins for Stoke, Celtic and Fulham while Birmingham drew but Tottenham lost in Russia.
It was the same story in Tallaght that we have seen so far in Group A. Rovers put in a battling and spirited performance but couldn’t match the quality of their opposition. Michael O’Neill’s men conceded three first half goals in a mad half for the Hoops, who simply didn’t get going. The second half restored pride though with Billy Dennehy’s 51st minute free kick sparking a Rovers onslaught but they couldn’t find that extra gear. It finished 3-1 to Paok.
In the other game, Spurs were beaten in Russia by Rubin Kazan. A win for Harry Redknapp’s young charges would have seen them progress but Nathko’s second half strike secured all three points for the home team.
1 PAOK Salonika 8 pts
2 Rubin Kazan 7
3 Tottenham 7
4 S.Rovers 0
Hannover came from one goal behind to beat FC Copenhagen in Denmark. The win for the Germans move them joint top with Standard Liege after the Belgian side beat Vorkslava 3-1.
Group C is up for grabs after PSV were held to a 3-3 draw at home to Hapoel Tel-Aviv. They stay top despite Legia Warsaw’s home win over Rapid Bucharest. Legia close the gap to just one point while the other two teams cannot progress.
Group D was thrown wide open as run away leaders Sporting Lisbon were beaten 1-0 by Vaslui. Lazio won 1-0 over FC Zurich so they move to 5 points but still four behind Sporting.
Stoke’s European adventure continues thanks to a 2-1 win away to Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Second half goals from Dean Whitehead and Peter Crouch secured the victory for the Potters before the home side got a late consolation. Tony Pulis’ men top Group E on 10 points and are four clear of Besiktas despite the Turkish side beating Dynamo Kiev 1-0.
1 Stoke 10 pts
2 Besiktas 6
3 Dynamo Kiev 5
4 Macc Tel-Aviv 1
Athletic Bilbao consolidated their position at the top of Group F with a 1-0 away win against Red Bull Salzburg. PSG get the pressure on the Spanish side though as they beat Slovan Bratislava by the same score in France. PSG are 3 points behind Bilbao while Salzburg are a further three behind in third and Bratislava have just a single point.
In Group G, Metalist beat Malmo 3-1 while Austria Vienna were held to a 2-2 draw by AZ Alkmaar in Austria. The results mean that Metalist open up a four point lead at the top while it looks like AZ and Austria Vienna will battle it out for that second qualifying spot.
Birmingham came from two goals down to snatch a draw at home to Club Brugge. The Belgian side raced into an early 2-0 lead but in the second half Chris Hughton’s men showed their spirit to fight back. Jean Beasujour and Marlon King with the goals. Braga hammered Maribor 5-1 in Portugal.
Braga, Birmingham and Brugge all have 7 points and will battle it out for the two qualifying spots.
1) Club Brugge 7 pts
2) Birmingham 7
3) Braga 7
4) Maribor 1
Celtic’s woes looked set to continue when they conceded a first minute goal at home to Rennes but the Bhoys turned things around in the first half thanks to two goals from Anthony Stokes. Gary Hooper came off the bench to wrap up the win and make it 3-1.
Despite the win, Neil Lennon’s men still remain two points behind the top two Udinese and Atletico Madrid who are both on seven points after Madrid hammered the Italian club 4-0.
1) Atletico Madrid 7 pts
2) Udinese 7
3) Celtic 5
4) Rennes 2
Group J has been thrown wide open by Thursday’s results. Leaders Schalke were held to a 0-0 draw at home to AEK while Steaua Bucharest beat Maccabi Haifa 4-2 in a thriller in Romania.
The results mean Schalke stay top on 8 points while Steau and Maccabi both have 6 points.
Fulham hammered Wisla Krakow 4-1 at Craven Cottage thanks to a brace from Andy Johnson. Ireland’s Damien Duff opened the scoring in the opening exchanges before the visitors levelled up just minutes later but AJ scored either side of the break to secure the three points. Steve Sidwell scored the final goal in the last quarter.
In the other game in Group K, FC Twente overcame Odense 3-2 in a cracker. Twente stay top on 10 points but Fulham maintain the pressure in second.
1) FC Twente 10 pts
2) Fulham 7
3) Wisla Krakow 3
4) Odense 3
Finally, Anderlecht have secured progression to the next stage with a 3-0 win over Sturm Graz. Lokomotiv Moscow won in Greece, beating AEK FC 3-1.
Anderlecht go through with 12 points and it’s now between Lokomotiv and Sturm Graz for second but the Russians have a three point lead.
With two games remaining, the Europa League is hotting up with most groups still very much undecided. The British sides are in good positions to progress but the next few weeks will determine who will be playing European football after Christmas.
Some Stats after tonight’s games…
Andy Johnson has become the 5th PL player to reach double figures in all competitions this season (RVP, Dzeko, Rooney, Aguero).
Rubin Kazan’s last 11 goals in all competitions have come in the second half
Carlo Cudicini had 26 more ball touches (56) than Jermain Defoe (30) against Rubin Kazan today
Maccabi Tel Aviv have only kept two clean sheets in their previous 23 European games
Nacer Barazite (Austria Wien) becomes the first player to score 10 goals in all European matches this season
The last three competitive games involving Club Brugge have seen a total of 21 goals scored.
AEK Athens 1-3 Lokomotiv Moscow
Anderlecht 3-0 Sturm Graz
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Udinese
Aust. Vienna 2-2 AZ Alkmaar
Besiktas 1-0 Dynamo Kiev
Birmingham 2-2 Club Brugge
Braga 5-1 NK Maribor
Celtic 3-1 Rennes
FC Copenhagen 1-2 Hannover 96
FC Metalist Kharkiv 3-1 Malmo
FC Twente 3-2 Odense BK
FC Vaslui 1-0 Sporting
Fulham 4-1 Wisla Krakow
Lazio 1-0 FC Zurich
Legia Warsaw 3-1 Rapid Bucharest
Macc Tel-Aviv 1-2 Stoke
Paris SG 1-0 Slovan Bratislava
PSV Eindhoven 3-3 Hapoel Tel-Aviv
SV Salzburg 0-1 Athletic Bilbao
Rubin Kazan 1-0 Tottenham
Schalke 04 0-0 AEK Larnaca
Shamrock Rovers 1-3 PAOK Salonika
Steaua Bucharest 4-2 Maccabi Haifa
Vorskla Poltava 1-3 Standard Liege