Atletico Among 13 Teams Through in Europa League
By Steve Douglas 23 November 2012
LONDON—Lazio, Napoli and reigning champion Atletico Madrid were among the 13 teams to qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League on Thursday.
However, there was a setback for another of the competition’s big names as Liverpool was held to a frustrating 2-2 draw at home to Young Boys, leaving the English side’s hopes of progressing to the last 32 in the balance.
Liverpool, a five-time European champion, will be eyeing one of the remaining five qualifying spots in the final round of games in two weeks’ time but others can take it easy.
Raul Garcia’s early goal earned Atletico a 1-0 victory over Hapoel Tel Aviv, allowing the Spanish side to progress to the last 32 from Group B with Viktoria Plzen.
A goalless draw at home to Tottenham was enough to put Lazio through in Group J, on a day fans of the Italian club were suspected of involvement in a hooligan attack in Rome that led to seven Spurs fans being hospitalized.
Napoli won 2-1 at AIK Stockholm to seal a top-two spot in Group F with Dnipro, which beat PSV Eindhoven away by the same scoreline to eliminate the Dutch hosts.
Wealthy Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala went through with a 2-0 home win over Udinese, courtesy of goals from Christopher Samba and Samuel Eto’o, in the group containing Liverpool.
The other clubs booking their last-32 spots on Thursday were Newcastle, Bordeaux, Fenerbahce, Borussia Moenchengladbach, Genk, Sparta Prague and Levante.
Athletic Bilbao, last season’s finalist, was knocked out without even playing following the cancellation of its match against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona because of the fighting in Israel. Sparta knocked out Bilbao by drawing 1-1 at already-qualified Lyon in Group I.
The top two teams in each of the 12 groups go through, where they will be joined by the eight third-place finishers in the Champions League groups.
Liverpool was denied a spot in the knockout stage by two superbly taken second-half goals by Young Boys, with Raul Bobadilla scoring the Swiss team’s first goal with an angled volley and Elsad Zverotic clinching a draw in the 88th by smashing home left-footed from the edge of the box.
Joe Cole, the former England winger and forgotten man at Liverpool, made his mark in a rare appearance by setting up the opener for Jonjo Shelvey in the 33rd and then scoring himself in the 72nd.
“Conceding a late goal is disappointing,” Cole said. “It was just game management at the end, to see the game out, which let us down.
“It was a great finish from the kid at the end, but we made it hard for ourselves. It’s a lesson learned.”
Liverpool plays Udinese away in its last match and will need a win to be certain of qualifying.
Paul Gascoigne, England’s star in the 1990 World Cup, was given a hero’s welcome by Lazio fans as he was made guest of honor for the match between two of his former clubs.
A huge banner with a picture of “Gazza” and another with the words “Lionhearted, headstrong, pure talent, real man. Still our hero” were held aloft as the former midfielder walked around the pitch, taking in the acclaim of the fans.
The match was disappointing, having already been overshadowed by events away from the Olympic Stadium where some 50 masked hooligans wielding cobblestones, metal bars and knives attacked the Tottenham fans drinking early Thursday. At least one person was stabbed.
“It is an extremely difficult moment for them,” Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said in reference to the club’s fans. Tottenham is second in the group and will qualify if it avoids defeat by Panathinaikos at home on Dec. 6.
A penalty three minutes into stoppage time by Edinson Cavani confirmed Napoli’s progress, and ensured the Uruguay forward became the final scorer at AIK’s Rasundastadion home, Sweden’s former national arena.
Inter Milan, Lyon, Rubin Kazan, Bayer Leverkusen, Metalist Kharkiv and Hannover advanced a fortnight ago.