Newcastle and Ukrainian club Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk maintained their 100 percent records in the UEFA Cup group phase on Thursday to virtually guarantee a place in the knockout stage.
Newcastle won 4-0 at Sochaux and Dnipro beat Austria Vienna 1-0 for their third straight wins. But Stuttgart was upset 1-0 by lowly Hereenveen and Middlesbrough lost 2-0 at Villarreal to suffer their first group phase defeats, while Italian clubs Parma and Lazio are on the verge of elimination after the third rotation.
Lazio drew 2-2 with Partizan Belgrade to be fourth in Group E, while Parma, the 1999 UEFA Cup champion, lost 2-1 to Standard Liege to be bottom of Group B.
Sixteen matches were scheduled Thursday in Europe's second-tier club competition. In the inaugural group stage, 40 clubs were divided into eight groups of five, with each club playing two home and two away games and the schedule decided randomly. The top three in each group join the eight clubs eliminated from the Champions League in the knockout stage.
Newcastle won easily at Sochaux off goals from Lee Bowyer, Shola Ameobi, Craig Bellamy and Laurent Robert. Sochaux striker Jeremy Matthieu missed a penalty in the 63rd minute.
Sporting Lisbon also had a 4-0 win in Group D. Liedson scored a hat trick to lift the Portuguese side over Dinamo Tbilisi.
Newcastle has nine points, Sporting six, Sochaux three and Tbilisi and Panionios zero.
"We are in a fantastic position," Newcastle manager Graeme Souness said. "We saw this as our hardest game in the competition in this group stage and it sets us up very nicely."
In Group G, Ugur Yildirim hit the winner for Heerenveen's first victory of the group stage. Yildirim whacked the ball in from 10m on 65 minutes after Stuttgart defender Boris Zivkovic sent a dubious defensive header across his own penalty box.
In Lisbon, Tomo Sokota scored against his former club and Simao Sabrosa netted a penalty to give Benfica a 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Stuttgart, with six points, leads the group on goal difference from Benfica. Zagreb and Heerenveen have three points and Beveren zero.
In Group C, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk kept its 100 percent record with Serhiy Nazarenko's 20th minute goal. FC Brugge beat FC Utrecht 1-0 with Timmy Simons' 62nd-minute goal despite finishing with nine men. Brugge lost playmaker Nastja Ceh at halftime for a high tackle and Tim Cornelisse in the 85th minute for the same offense. Dnipro has nine points; Zaragoza, Brugge and Vienna have three points and Utrecht none.
In Group E, Middlesbrough stayed top despite the loss. Antonio "Guayre" Betancor and Javi Venta scored in each half to give Villarreal its first win of the group stage. Boro has six points, with Partizan Belgrade and Villarreal on four.
Lazio has two points after rallying to a draw off second-half goals from Paolo Di Canio and Simone Inzaghi. Two goals by Cameroon striker Pierre Boya in the first 25 minutes gave Partizan a 2-0 lead. Lazio needs to beat Greek club Egaleo, which has yet to earn a point, next Thursday to advance.
Schalke took the lead in Group A with a 2-0 win over Hungary's Ferencvaros off an own goal by Gabor Gyepes, along with Levan Kobiashvili's strike.
Hearts has three points after earning its first win in the group stage. Robbie Neilson scored an 89th-minute winner for the 2-1 victory at Basel. Schalke has seven points, Feyenoord four, Hearts three and Basel and Ferencvaros one.