EUROPA LEAGUE: Heavyweights Liverpool, Inter progress


Sat, Sep 01, 2012 - Page 18

European heavyweights Liverpool and Inter qualified for the Europa League group stage after coming through their respective playoff ties on Thursday.

Luis Suarez’s goal sent Liverpool into the knockout phase with a 1-1 draw against Scottish Premier League side Heart of Midlothian.

Brendan Rodgers’ team had a 1-0 advantage from last week’s first leg at Tynecastle, but despite dominating for long periods at Anfield, they failed to put the visitors out of reach.

David Templeton looked set to make them pay for their wastefulness when his weak shot was allowed into the net by Pepe Reina with six minutes remaining, but four minutes later Suarez burst away down the left and managed to find the net from close range.

At the San Siro, Inter made life complicated for themselves with the 33rd-minute sending off of Luca Castellazzi.

Unheralded Romanian visitors Vaslui converted the subsequent penalty to take a shock lead. Inter’s Rodrigo Palaccio leveled, but Vaslui regained the advantage, only for Fredy Guarin to grab an stoppage-time equalizer to put the Serie A giants through 4-2 on aggregate.

Liverpool have Premier League company in the knockout stages as Newcastle United edged Greek side Atromitos 1-0 at St James’ Park, the goal coming from substitute Haris Vuckic, to qualify 2-1 and join compatriots Tottenham Hotspur in the draw in Monaco.

Last season’s Europea League runners-up Athletic Bilbao were held 3-3 in Finland by HJK, but they coasted through with a 9-3 aggregate win.

The main upset of the evening came in Russia where heavyweights CSKA Moscow succumbed 2-0 to Swedish outfit AIK to crash out 3-0 on aggregate.

By contrast, CSKA’s ambitious compatriots Anzhi Makhachkala meted out a 5-0 drubbing to AZ Alkmaar, with Samuel Eto’o on the scoresheet.

Serie A’s SS Lazio and French duo Olympique de Marseille and Girondins de Bordeaux all went through to the knockout stages after wins over ND Mura 05 of Slovenia, Sheriff Tiraspol of Moldova and Red Star Belgrade.

The most lopsided result of the night came courtesy of Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, who thumped hapless FK Zeta of Montenegro 9-0 for a cricket-style aggregate scoreline of 14-0.

In total 30 teams booked their tickets into the competition proper, as well as VfB Stuttgart, who won their playoff against Dinamo Moscow on Tuesday.

That group join seven teams automatically qualified and 10 refugees from the Champions League playoffs.