Big names fall by wayside in Europa League

Several clubs hoping to figure prominently in this season’s Europa League will not even feature in Friday’s group-stage draw after suffering shock play-off round defeats on Thursday.

Nice's forward Dario Cvitanich (C) vies with Limassol's Rachid Hamdani (R) and Christos Karidipis during their UEFA Europa League qualifying football match at the Ray stadium in Nice. (AFP/JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET)

Nice's forward Dario Cvitanich (C) vies with Limassol's Rachid Hamdani (R) and Christos Karidipis during their UEFA Europa League qualifying football match at the Ray stadium in Nice. (AFP/JEAN CHRISTOPHE MAGNENET)

Heading the list of victims on Thursday were Italian side Udinese, who failed to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Slovan Liberec, drawing 1-1 in the Czech Republic, despite fielding a strong team, to bow out of Europe before the end of August.

Elsewhere, Bundesliga club Stuttgart – who last weekend sacked coach Bruno Labbadia and replaced him with youth coach Thomas Schneider – drew 2-2 at hone to Rijeka of Croatia to exit the competition 4-3 on aggregate.

The Germans conceded the decisive goal in the fourth minute of injury time.

Former European champions Feyenoord were eliminated by Kuban Krasnodar, while Spartak Moscow were surprisingly ousted by modest Swiss club St Gallen, and it was a shocking night for French clubs as Saint-Etienne and Nice were knocked out by Esbjerg of Denmark and Apollon Limassol of Cyprus respectively.

That completed a miserable week for French sides in general after Lyon lost to Real Sociedad of Spain in the Champions League play-offs on Wednesday.

In contrast, Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City had few problems coming through their ties and take their place in Friday’s group-stage draw in Monaco.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas fielded a fringe team that remained more than strong enough to beat Georgia’s Dinamo Tbilisi 3-0 on the night and 8-0 on aggregate.

Jermain Defoe scored twice at White Hart Lane, while Lewis Holtby was also on target.

Swansea, meanwhile, lost to 2-1 to Petrolul in Romania, but had already done the hard part by winning 5-1 in the first leg in Wales.

Roland Lamah scored Swansea’s goal, while Michael Laudrup’s team had captain Leon Britton sent-off late on.

Other leading names to progress on Thursday were Spain’s Sevilla and their city neighbours Betis, Eintracht Frankfurt and Dynamo Kiev. Fiorentina of Italy also advanced, although only on away goals after losing 1-0 at home to Grasshoppers Zurich.

Thursday’s winners will be joined in the group-stage draw by the losers from the Champions League play-offs and the seven clubs to qualify automatically, including English FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic, Coppa Italia winners Lazio, Valencia of Spain, Freiburg of Germany and French Cup holders Bordeaux.

The final place – left open following Fenerbahce’s two-year ban from European competition – will be taken by one of the play-off round losers, with UEFA pulling one of the lucky losers out of a hat on Friday morning.

Europa League play-off second-leg results:

Spartak Moscow (RUS) 2 St Gallen (SUI) 4
(St Gallen win 5-3 on aggregate)

Rubin Kazan (RUS) 3 Molde (NOR) 0
(Rubin win 5-0 on aggregate)

VfB Stuttgart (GER) 2 Rijeka (CRO) 2
(Rijeka win 4-3 on aggregate)

Nordsjaelland (DEN) 0 Elfsborg (SWE) 1
(Elfsborg win 2-1 on aggregate)

Astra (ROM) 1 Maccabi Haifa (ISR) 1
(Maccabi Haifa win 3-1 on aggregate)

Dila Gori (GEO) 0 Rapid Vienna (AUT) 3
(Rapid win 4-0 on aggregate)

Dynamo Kiev (UKR) 5 Aktobe (KAZ) 1
(Dynamo win 8-3 on aggregate)

Trabzonspor (TUR) 3 Kukes (ALB) 1
(Trabzonspor win 5-1 on aggregate)

Saint-Etienne (FRA) 0 Esbjerg (DEN) 1
(Esbjerg win 5-3 on aggregate)

Sheriff Tiraspol (MDA) 2 Vojvodina (SRB) 1
(Sheriff win 3-2 on aggregate)

AZ Alkmaar (NED) 0 Atromitos (GRE) 1
(Match abandoned with AZ leading 3-2 on aggregate)

Slovan Liberec (CZE) 1 Udinese (ITA) 1
(Liberec win 4-2 on aggregate)

APOEL (CYP) 1 Zulte Waregem (BEL) 2
(Zulte Waregem win 3-2 on aggregate)

Petrolul (ROM) 2 Swansea City (ENG) 1
(Swansea win 6-3 on aggregate)

Besiktas (TUR) 2 Tromso (NOR) 0
(Besiktas win 3-2 on aggregate)

Nice (FRA) 1 Apollon Limassol (CYP) 0
(Apollon win 2-1 on aggregate)

Thun (SUI) 3 Partizan Belgrade (SRB) 0
(Thun win 3-1 on aggregate)

Genk (BEL) 5 FH Hafnarfjoerdur (ISL) 2
(Genk win 7-2 on aggregate)

Skenderbeu (ALB) 1 Chornomorets Odessa (UKR) 0
(1-1 on aggregate, Chornomorets win 7-6 on penalties)

Zalgiris (LTU) 0 Salzburg (AUT) 2
(Salzburg win 7-0 on aggregate)

Eintracht Frankfurt (GER) 2 Qarabag (AZE) 1
(Eintracht Frankfurt win 4-1 on aggregate)

Standard Liege (BEL) 3 Minsk (BLR) 1
(Standard win 5-1 on aggregate)

Pasching (AUT) 1 Estoril (POR) 2
(Estoril win 4-1 on aggregate)

Dnipro (UKR) 2 Kalju Nomme (EST) 0
(Dnipro win 5-1 on aggregate)

Slask Wroclaw (POL) 0 Sevilla (ESP) 5
(Sevilla win 9-1 on aggregate)

Fiorentina (ITA) 0 Grasshoppers Zurich (SUI) 1
(2-2 on aggregate, Fiorentina win on away goals)

Feyenoord (NED) 1 Kuban Krasnodar (RUS) 2
(Kuban win 3-2 on aggregate)

Tottenham Hotspur (ENG) 3 Dinamo Tbilisi (GEO) 0
(Tottenham win 8-0 on aggregate)

Betis (ESP) 6 Jablonec (CZE) 0
(Betis win 8-1 on aggregate)

Braga (POR) 0 Pandurii Targu-Jiu (ROM) 2
(After extra time. Score at 90 minutes 0-1. Pandurli win 2-1 on aggregate)

Source AFP