Now that we’re past the halfway stage it’s approaching crunch time in the Europa League group stages. Arsenal, Dynamo Kyiv, FCSB, Lazio and Zenit St Petersburg have all secured their progression to the Round of 32. Meanwhile, Everton, Maccabi Tel-Aviv and Vardar are now mathematically unable to get through to the knockout stages.
Slavia Prague 0-2 Villarreal
Maccabi Tel-Aviv 0-1 FC Astana
Villarreal have always been around the top of this group and Carlos Bacca’s first-half strike and an own goal from Slavia Prague centre-back Simon Deli in the dying minutes gave them the points to ensure they stay on top. After two matches FC Astana only had one point, but with their second win in a row, which have both come against Maccabi Tel-Aviv they now find themselves second in the group. The latest result has knocked Maccabi Tel-Aviv out, as they still only have one point after four games. With Villarreal and Astana playing next week, the dynamic of the group could completely change again if Slavia Prague manages to capitalise on Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s situation.
Young Boys 0-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Partizan Belgrade 2-0 Skenderbeu
Dynamo Kyiv have managed to get through and have a lot to thanks Vitali Buyalsky for, as it was the midfielder who scored the goal that got them over the line. However, the most impressive goal came from Partizan Belgrade man and former Manchester United winger Zoran Tosic, who sent a free kick from long range straight into the corner giving Skenderbeu goalkeeper Orges Shehi no chance. Partizan’s win, which was wrapped up by Leandre Tawamba, has put them into second place in the group with a two-point lead on Young Boys. The two sides face off next gameweek in what could be a decisive match.
Ludogorets 1-1 SC Braga
Istanbul Basaksehir 1-1 Hoffenheim
No changes in terms of positioning in Group C, however, this will feel like a big milestone for Ludogorets, as this keeps them at the top of the group. However, it could have been even better for the Bulgarian outfit, as they were in the lead until Fransergio equalised in the 83rd minute. Hoffenheim have had a resurrection in the Europa League after failing to get a single point in the first two games. Their draw keeps them three points behind Braga, however like Ludogorets they were so close to getting the win, this time the equaliser –scored by Edin Visca- came in the 93rd minute. However, with Hoffenheim and Braga on the same goal difference and going head to head next week the situation could be very different.
AEK Athens 0-0 AC Milan
Rijeka 1-4 Austria Wien
AC Milan were cruising before they met AEK Athens in the last game week, but once again they were unable to break the Greek side down and came out with a 0-0 draw. This has kept them top but they will have been hoping to join the list of teams who already have a place in the next round confirmed. Austria Wien hadn’t had the best time in this tournament before this week, but their emphatic win against Rijeka has put them two points behind AEK Athens.
Apollon Limassol 1-1 Atalanta
Lyon 3-0 Everton
Apollon Limassol never know when to give up. They may only have three points after this draw with Atalanta, but they could have easily had none with their equalisers coming in the 93rd, 88th and now the 94th minute. However, one team that don’t have any chance of coming back are Everton as their weakened side were beaten 3-0 by Lyon after second-half goals from Bertrand Traore, Houssem Aouar and Memphis Depay. This result means that with just one point they are mathematically unable to progress.
FC Copenhagen 3-0 Fastav Zlin
Lokomotiv Moscow 1-2 Sheriff Tiraspol
Before this matchday Lokomotiv Moscow were the only team who had won a game in this group, but victories for FC Copenhagen and Sheriff Tiraspol has completely turned the group on its head. Moscow have dropped from first place to third, with the two winners of this week now occupying the first two positions. The Russian side will be frustrated with their position, especially as Jefferson Farfan had given them the lead against the side from Moldova, but will have an opportunity to get back into the knockout places when they face Copenhagen in their next Europa League match.
FCSB 1-1 Hapoel Be’er Sheva
Viktoria Plzen 4-1 Lugano
FCSB only needed a draw to secure their place in the knockout rounds and a strike from Florinel Coman secured that, with former Chelsea man Ben Sahar scoring for the Israeli side. Plzen overpowered Lugano, with Michael Krmencik the star of the show scoring twice in the first 20 minutes to set up the win.
Arsenal 0-0 Red Star Belgrade
FC Koln 5-2 BATE Borisov
Arsenal have secured their place in the knockout rounds after their youthful side drew with Red Star Belgrade. 23-year-old Matt Macey made a brilliant stop to keep things level for the Gunners, although it was Red Star centre-back Damien Le Tallec who stopped a goal in the most impressive way to prevent Jack Wilshere from giving Arsenal the win. Arsenal may have got themselves through, but the team who will be happiest right now is arguably FC Koln. With just two points in the league and none in the Europa League things were looking bleak but they came back from 2-1 down to win 5-2, scoring twice after the 80th minute. This result puts them just two points behind Red Star Belgrade who are second, meaning they still have a chance of progressing.
Red Bull Salzburg 0-0 Konyaspor
Vitoria Guimaraes 1-0 Marseille
The big talking point in this group was Patrice Evra’s dismissal before the game had begun when he kicked a supporter in the face. Boubacar Kamara also got sent off for Marseille as an 80th-minute goal from Paolo Hurtado condemned the French side to a 1-0 loss, although they do keep their second place spot. Despite drawing with Konyaspor, Salzburg are still in the driving seat as they are two points ahead of Marseille at the top.
Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Ostersunds
Hertha Berlin 2-0 Zorya Luhansk
Ostersunds and Zorya Luhansk had taken this group by storm before this game week and despite both teams losing they still occupy the top two places. However, thanks to Aritz Aduriz scoring to get Athletic Bilbao and Davie Selke’s brace earning Hertha Berlin victory there is now only three points separating top and bottom of the group. Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin face off in their next Europa League fixture, with Zorya and Ostersunds against each other, so this group could be turned completely on its head after the next round of matches.
Lazio 1-0 Nice
Vitesse Arnhem 0-2 Zulte Waregem
Lazio are the only side in the competition with a 100% record still intact after Nice centre-back Maxime Le Marchand scored an own goal in the 92nd. This came without either team having got a single shot on target. Despite this loss Nice will be feeling confident of getting through, as they are sitting second in the group with both Lazio games out of the way. Zulte Waregem will be hoping to put pressure on them though, as they face them next after getting themselves within two points of the French side with the 2-0 win against Vitesse Arnhem.
Rosenborg 1-1 Zenit St Petersburg
Real Sociedad 3-0 Vardar
Zenit may have lost their 100% record due to a penalty from Nicklas Bendtner, but Aleksandr Kokorin’s 93rd-minute equaliser meant that Zenit at least secured their place in the knockout stages and put him top of the scoring charts with teammate Emiliano Rigoni who actually assisted his strike. Real Sociedad on the other hand comfortably beat Vardar 3-0, putting them one point behind Zenit St Petersburg, although they have now overtaken the Russians as the highest scoring team in the tournament.