Former European Cup winners PSV Eindhoven and Celtic reached the Champions League playoffs on Wednesday, the Dutch side with ease and the Scots after surviving a tricky test on an artificial pitch in Sweden.
The highlight of PSV’s 3-0 second-leg win at Zulte Waregem was a scorching volley by right-winger Zakaria Bakkali, his first goal for the club, while Celtic’s defense was instrumental in the 0-0 draw at Elfsborg that took them through.
Austria Vienna, Zenit St Petersburg and Dinamo Zagreb also survived the third qualifying round, but the performance of the night came from Viktoria Plzen who thrashed Estonia’s Kalju Nomme 10-2 on aggregate after a 6-2 home win.
Celtic struggled to string moves together on Elfsborg’s synthetic pitch although they created good chances in the first 20 minutes, the best a shot from Joe Ledley which goalkeeper Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard saved superbly.
The Scottish side’s defense kept the Swedes at bay though and Celtic went through thanks to Kris Commons’ goal from the first leg.
“That’s the worst artificial pitch I’ve ever seen, it was difficult for the players to keep their balance,” said Neil Lennon, who masterminded the 1967 European champions’ defeat of Barcelona in last season’s group stages.
“It was a cup final for Elfsborg and our back four were magnificent,” he said.
PSV, who led 2-0 from their home leg, and Belgium’s Zulte Waregem both had good chances to take the lead in the first half. The best fell to Eindhoven’s Tim Matavz who went one on one with Sammy Bossut before the goalkeeper saved with his foot.
Bossut again did well to thwart Memphis Depay early in the second period after he was played through by Stijn Schaars, but PSV took the lead from the penalty spot in the 56th minute.
A shot from Depay was stopped on the line with his arm by Zulte’s Steve Colpaert. Although Matavz put the ball in the net, a penalty was given and Colpaert sent off.
The 1988 European Cup winners added their second through Bakkali and Bruno Godeau completed an unhappy night for the Belgian side by scoring an own-goal in added time.
Twenty two of Europe’s elite have already qualified for the group stage. They will be joined by the 10 teams who make it through this month’s two-legged playoffs to join last season’s winners Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester United.
Zenit eased through 6-0 on aggregate against last season’s surprise Champions League team Nordsjaelland.
Taking a 1-0 lead into the home leg, the Russians scored midway through the first half through Roman Shirokov before Hulk, Danny and Andrey Arshavin added second-period goals.
Shirokov scored his second in added time and Nicolai Stokholm completed a disappointing night for the Danes, who reached the group stage last season, when he hit the woodwork with a penalty.
Dinamo Zagreb are two games away from reaching the group stages for the third season in a row after earning a 3-0 win against Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova for a 4-0 aggregate victory.
The Croatians have struggled in the Champions League group stage, losing 11 games in succession before drawing 1-1 with Dynamo Kiev in December last year.
Austria Vienna held on with 10 men in Iceland to draw 0-0 with FH and qualify thanks to Daniel Royer’s goal from the first leg. Legia Warsaw went through on away goals against Molde after drawing 0-0 in Poland.
Metalist Kharkiv added to the 2-0 advantage they had brought back from Greece when Argentine Sebastian Blanco scored in the second half against PAOK Salonika. PAOK equalized through Tomas Necid, but it was too little, too late.
However, the Ukrainian side’s first foray in the Champions League could be derailed by a UEFA disciplinary hearing next week, after Metalist lost an appeal over a match-fixing case.
Viktoria Plzen’s 38-year-old captain, Pavel Horvath, had a night to remember, scoring a hat-trick in the defeat of Kalju.
The Czechs, leading 4-0 from the first leg in Estonia, were given a shock when Italian Damiano Quintieri opened the scoring for Kalju after 10 minutes. Quintieri scored again in the second half, but Plzen were good value for their 10-2 success.
The draw for the playoffs is today. Teams will be divided into a champions group and a non-champions group which includes Arsenal, AC Milan and Schalke.
Five of the 10 teams in each group will be seeded for the two legs on Aug. 20-21 and Aug. 27-28.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that he had called in the “third umpire” as he announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to resume next weekend. In a radio interview earlier on Friday, Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying that the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms. “It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity which you might not get in a game of tennis,” he said. Johnson had already
Indian police are investigating an alleged betting scandal in which a sham cricket tournament was held in an Indian village and passed off as a Twenty20 contest played in Sri Lanka. Players portrayed as Sri Lankan cricketers played two matches on Monday last week that were broadcast with live commentary on YouTube, media reports said, along with ball-by-ball coverage on top Indian sports Web sites. The organizers hung Sri Lankan advertisements at the ground for added authenticity and put up tents to block the view from outside the remote rural venue, set in farmland next to a busy highway. Police said that they
Taipower on Sunday charged to their third straight win and took over first place in the Taiwan Football Premier League as previous leaders Taichung Futuro suffered their first defeat of the season, while Hang Yuan rallied from two goals down to complete a thrilling 3-2 victory over National Taiwan University of Sport (NTUS). Heading into the 10th round of matches, unbeaten Taichung Futuro led the league with 21 points, but they fell to their first defeat of the season, a 1-0 loss to Tatung at the National Stadium in Kaohsiung. In a match in which both defenses were on top and there
HOTSHOT: Luis Suarez scored his 194th goal for Barca, tying him with Ladislao Kubala as the club’s third-highest scorer, behind Cesar Rodriguez and Lionel Messi With another decisive penalty from Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid on Sunday extended their perfect run after the COVID-19 suspension and moved closer to their first Spanish title in three years. Ramos scored his fifth goal since the season resumed as Madrid defeated Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to maintain a four-point lead over Barcelona, who beat fifth-placed Villarreal 4-1. Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann were among the scorers for Barcelona after assists from Lionel Messi. Ramos converted a 73rd-minute penalty to give Madrid their seventh straight victory and they remain the only team with a perfect record since La Liga resumed. “These three points are very