The UEFA Europa League group stage wrapped up last week Friday with 24 teams progressing along with an additional eight falling out of the UCL. So, how’d it shake out?
FenerbahA�e and Manchester United advance out of Group A as winners and runner-up respectively. A win over Feyenoord on the final matchday took the Istanbul-based club to 13 points, securing the group. Despite beating Ukrainian side Zorya, United must settle for second place (on 12 points).
APOEL Nicosia entered matchday six needing three points to lock up the group. Olympiacos would have the same goal, knowing a win over APOEL would see them leapfrog the Cypriot side into first. APOEL would ultimately earn all three points (and the top spot) in Group B. Thus, Olympiacos would settle for second. Meanwhile, Swiss club BSC Young Boys and Azerbaijani side FC Astana head home.
Anderlecht went into the last match sitting atop Group C, understanding a draw or better was necessary to become group winners. However, reality would intervene as Saint-Etienne turned a two-goal halftime deficit into a 2-3 away victory. The French side would end up on 12 points as Anderlecht would fall into second place. In the group’s other fixture, Mainz handled a Qabala side that went winless in six.
Zenit St. Petersburg won the first five matches they play in Group D, thus locking up the group relatively early on. Entering the day on five points, AZ Alkmaar was in line to advance, having to navigate a testy home fixture against the Russians. Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dundalk, both entering on four points, would contest the group’s other match. The Dutchmen rose to the challenge, defeating the Zenit to nip Maccabi for second.
Roma had already clinched Group E, but Astra Giurgiu and Austria Wien would still contest for the second spot. Meanwhile, Czech side Viktoria Plzen was previously eliminated. While Roma and Astra played to a scoreless draw, our other match would provide all the entertainment. After falling two goals and a man down by the 40th minute, Plzen would completely flip the script. The Czech side got a goal back before halftime before scoring twice in the second half to go on and claim three points. Playing for pride is a powerful thing, and lethargy cost Austria Wien a spot in the knockout round.
Genk and Athletic Bilbao would enter Group F‘s final matchday equal on nine points apiece. On top of that, both had already clinched spots in the next round. Bilbao traveled to face Rapid Wien, holding to just a draw. That result would be enough to see the Spaniards go top, but only briefly, as Genk’s match with Sassuolo was postponed until the next morning due to fog. When morning came around, the Belgians took care of business and defeated their Italian adversaries whilst keeping the clean sheet.
Ajax would clinch the top spot in Group G long before matchday six, earning 13 points through their first five fixtures. But that meant the second spot was up for grabs between Standard Liege and Celta Vigo. Standard hosted Ajax searching for a key three points but they could only draw, while in the other fixture, Celta Vigo traveled to Greece to take on Panathinaikos, the bottom team of the group. An early goal set the tone and the Spaniards came away victorious, bringing their points total to nine points earning them the right to play in the knockout stage.
Group H was no contest for Shakhtar Donetsk. They had already clinched their group and a win would’ve seen them go undefeated in group play. Shakhtar would travel to Portugal to take on Braga who needed a win to stave off Gent and advance to the knockout rounds. However, Braga would fall behind early and never recover, slumping to a 2-4 defeat and effectively ending their continental hopes. In the other match, Gent saved it for late but found a winner in the 90th minute to defeat Konyaspor and go two points clear of Braga (into second place).
Schalke would enter the final match a perfect five of five in Group I play, having already clinched. They, like Zenit, could not finish undefeated. A 2-0 loss to Red Bull Salzburg kept them on 15 points, while the Austrians joined Krasnodar on seven. The Russians traveled to France to face shock Ligue 1 leaders OGC Nice and could not repeat their performance in the reverse fixture, instead falling 2-1. The result did not deter Krasnodar from reaching the knockout stage as group runner-up.
Fiorentina would enter the final matchday on 10 points and a spot in the knockout stage already in stone. They took on Azerbaijani side Qarabag in Baku and came away as 1-2 victors, cementing their position at the top of Group J. In the other fixture, Greek side PAOK Thessaloniki defeated Slovan Liberec to finish second (on 10 points).
Sparta Praha had already clinched Group K after four wins out of five matches. Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Southampton were locked on seven points apiece with a match at St. Mary’s the decider between the sides. Hapoel took a late lead but were pegged back to 1-1 in second-half stoppage time. The away goal meant the visitors were through at the expense of the Saints. While in the other match, already-eliminated Inter Milan defeated the group leaders 2-1 thanks to a brace from Eder.
Osmanlispor started the day on seven points with Villarreal, FC ZA?rich, and Steaua BucureE�ti hot on their heels with six points each. The Turkish side would hold the Swiss to a clean sheet, securing the group with a 2-0 home win. Villarreal would go on to win as well, 2-1, following a late (88th minute) winner. The Spaniards would finish on nine points, one below Osmanlispor, advancing as the Group L runner-up.
Round of 32 Matchups
Krasnodar/Fenerbahce a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/22/17.
Manchester United/Saint-Etienne a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/22/17.
Athletic Bilbao/APOEL Nicosia a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Olympiacos/Osmanlispor a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Anderlecht/Zenit St. Petersburg a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
AZ Alkmaar/Lyon a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Villarreal/Roma a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Astra Giurgiu/Genk a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Legia Warsaw/Ajax a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Celta Vigo/Shakhtar Donetsk a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Gent/Tottenham Hotspur a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
PAOK Thessaloniki/Schalke a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Borussia MA�nchengladbach/Fiorentina a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Rostov/Sparta Prague a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Hapoel Be’er Sheva/BeAYiktaAY a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Ludogorets/KA?benhavn a�� first leg, 2/16/17; second leg, 2/23/17.
Which fixture interests you the most?