The first five teams from the UEFA Champions League 2011/12 Play-Off Round booked themselves a place in the Group Stage proper on the evening of Tuesday 23rd August 2011.
A dramatic evening of UEFA Champions League football took place, and included as much drama as organizers would have hoped for when they first envisioned a Play-Off to reach the Group Stage.
The losing team from each tie does, however, have the “safety net” of inclusion in the UEFA Europa League Group Stage round, so all is not lost for the five losing sides.
Genk 2-1 Maccabi Haifa (Aggregate 3-3) (Genk win 4-1 on penalties)
The closest aggregate score of the evening proved to be Genk’s mirror image home reversal of Maccabi Haifa’s impressive 2-1 win a week ago – Genk won out on panalties after the sides could not be split following two complete matches, and a period of extra time.
The Belgian side came into this home match having fallen to a 2-1 away defeat, but the action in this tie took place in six amazing first half minutes.
First Jelle Vossen got the hosts off the mark, and into a 1-0 lead on 35 minutes – which, based on the away goals rule, would have been sufficient to carry them through with a 2-2 aggregate scoreline – only to see Maccabi Haifa’s one goal advantage restored moments later, as Eyal Golasa scored a vital equalising – away – goal on 37 minutes.
Just before half time, though, with the clock on 41 minutes, Thomas Buffel scored a goal to level the scores absolutely at 3-3, the score which remained at half time and then, following an increasingly nervy second half, at full time too.
A period of extra time could not separate the sides, either, as, particularly once Haifa defender Itzhak Cohen was sent off by referee Howard Webb for a second bookable offence, Haifa began to cling on for a penalty shootout.
The spot-kicks arrived, but it was to be László Köteles’ day, as the Genk’s Hungarian goalkeeper saved two penalties en route to a 4-1 victory which puts the Belgian side into the hat for the UEFA Champions League proper, and ensures that Maccabi Haifa will be playing their European football in the Europa League this season.
Villarreal 3-0 Odense BK (Villareal win 3-1 on aggregate)
Villarreal came back from a 1-0 away defeat in the first leg to record a good 3-0 home win and progress 3-1 on aggregate.
But it took an age for the Spanish side to get level with their visitors: Giuseppe Rossi proved to be the home hero, as he first leveled the tie by scoring on 50 minutes, before giving the hosts’ the aggregate lead with a second on 66 minutes.
An away goal from Odense would still be enough to see them into the Champions League Group Stage at the expense of the big name Spanish outfit, so the home fans were delighted when substitute Carlos Marchena added an all-important third goal on 82 minutes to make the final 10 minutes of football at El Madrigal Stadium a much more relaxed affair.
UEFA Champions League 2011/12 Play-Off Round review coverage continued on Page Two – including APOEL FC v Wisla Krakow, FC Zurich v Bayern Munich, Malmo v Dinamo Zagreb, UEFA Group Stage Draw information & Full Results from Tuesday 23rd August 2011 (click below).