LONDON — Inter Milan and Lyon were among the six teams to qualify for the Europa League’s knockout stage on Thursday but defending champion Atletico Madrid was made to wait after its 16-match winning run in European competition was ended.
Liverpool’s qualification hopes took a dive by losing 1-0 at wealthy Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in Group A while Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani produced the best individual performance of the round, scoring all four of Napoli’s goals in a 4-2 win over Dnipro to revive the Italian team’s challenge in Group F.
Inter joined Rubin Kazan in progressing from Group H with two games to spare by easing past Partizan Belgrade 3-1 and Lyon ensured a top-two finish in Group I by winning 3-2 at last season’s beaten finalist Athletic Bilbao, which slumped to a third defeat in four matches.
Bayer Leverkusen, Metalist Kharkiv and Hannover were the other sides to go through courtesy of victories but Atletico surprisingly lost 2-0 at Academica in Group B, for the Portuguese team’s first win in Europe in 43 years.
England striker Jermain Defoe grabbed a clinical hat trick in Tottenham’s 3-1 win at home to Maribor that leaves the English side second in Group J, behind Lazio after its 3-0 victory over Panathinaikos.
Five teams — Rosenborg, Rapid Vienna, Neftchi, Partizan Belgrade and Hapoel Tel-Aviv — were eliminated in the 48-club group stage, which resumes in two weeks’ time. The top two teams in each group go through, where they will be joined by the eight third-place finishers in the Champions League groups.
Inter traveled to Partizan buoyed by a 3-1 win at Juventus, which ended the Serie A leaders’ 49-match unbeaten run in the league, and picked up where it left off.
Rodrigo Palacio scored twice and Fredy Guarin added Inter’s third in Belgrade. Rubin beat Neftchi 1-0 to also move to 10 points and will host Inter next, a match that should determine who finishes top of the group.
Lyon is the only team to have won all four of its group games after goals by Bafetimbi Gomis, Yoann Gourcuff and Alexandre Lacazette against Bilbao, which is a shadow of the side that flamboyantly swept to the final in May — only to lose to Spanish rival Atletico.
The Basques are bottom on one point and now have to win both remaining games to have a chance of qualifying.
Leverkusen and Metalist advanced from Group K after moving to 10 points with wins over Rapid Vienna (3-0) and Rosenborg (3-1), respectively. Group L leader Hannover can’t be denied a top-two place either, following a 90th-minute winner from the penalty spot by Szabolcs Huszti in a 3-2 victory over Helsingborg, which had two players dismissed in the final two minutes.
Lacina Traore grabbed a 45th-minute winner for Anzhi to give Dutch coach Guus Hiddink the perfect present on his 66th birthday in Moscow against Liverpool.
The English visitors, who again played a largely reserve team, held their own throughout but was undone by a great piece of skill by the lanky Ivorian striker, who lifted the ball over his marker before lobbing goalkeeper Brad Jones from outside the area.
“Some of the young players were terrific and we are disappointed not to have got something from it,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, who left Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard out of the squad ahead of Sunday’s match at Chelsea in the Premier League.
Anzhi climbed above Liverpool to the top of the group and with Young Boys’ surprise 3-2 victory over Udinese, all four teams can still reach the knockout stage.
Liverpool and Anzhi can both qualify from what is proving to be the toughest of all 12 groups by beating Young Boys and Udinese, respectively, next time out.
Atletico should also go through in the next matchday as it hosts Hapoel but was sunk on Thursday by a brace from Wilson Eduardo, earning Academica a first European victory since 1969. The holders, who were without their star striker Radamel Falcao, are level on points with Viktoria Plzen — a 4-0 winner over eliminated Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Newcastle stayed top of Group D by drawing 2-2 at Club Brugge while Fenerbahce and Steaua Bucharest are both five points clear in their groups after a third win in four games but still aren’t guaranteed to advance.
Fenerbahce beat AEL Limassol 2-0 in Group C, where Marseille drew 2-2 with Borussia Moenchengladbach to leave both teams on five points, and Steaua is in charge of Group E after defeating Molde 2-1 away.
Defoe was in irresistible mood against Maribor, providing three deadly finishes — two coming from assists from flying winger Gareth Bale — at White Hart Lane.
At halftime, a tearful Fabrice Muamba was given a standing ovation from the crowd after returning to the exact spot on the field where he collapsed because of cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match in March. The Bolton midfielder’s heart stopped beating on its own for 78 minutes during the incident and he has since retired from football on medical advice.
“I want to thank all of you Spurs fans who were here and who prayed for me,” Muamba told the crowd. “You were all fantastic and I will never forget.”comments powered by Disqus