The biggest shock of the night, though, was perhaps the felling of Partizan Belgrade by Shamrock Rovers of the League of Ireland. The manner of this victory made it all the sweeter for the visitors, as Rovers, having carried an impressive 1-1 home draw through to the second, away, leg, fell behind to a 35th minute Vladimir Volkov strike. The hosts had the 1-0 lead on the night, and a 2-1 lead – including an away goal – at half time, but a 58th minute Pat Sullivan goal leveled the tie absolutely. Shamrock players celebrated this equaliser like it was manna from heaven, which it would later prove to be as, once the final whistle had blown, and Rovers had forced extra time, they managed to get another goal in the 113th minute from the penalty spot.
Stephen O’Donnell stepped up to take probably the most important penalty he will ever hit, and make history for both his club and his Federation in the process: when Shamrock managed to make the lead stick to the end of the 120 minutes, his penalty means that they are the first League of Ireland side ever to reach the UEFA Europa Group Stages. It is certainly the biggest stage Shamrock Rovers will play on, which, on the evidence of their heart-filled performance, may well see them humble more big European names – they will need to be on their game, every match, though, for they are the lowest ranked team in the draw for the Group Stages.
Another shock result was produced by Legia Warsaw, who travelled to Spartak Moscow and picked up three away goals for an amazing 5-4 aggregate victory. But, as with Shamrock, the manner of their success was incredible: they fell behind first 1-0, then 2-0 on the night, following Spartak goals from Kirill Kombarov (10) and Dmitri Kombarov (pen, 27) – which gave the hosts a 4-2 advantage in under half an hour.
Warsaw needed to score two away goals just to get back on level terms, but they set about this task quickly, adding both goals before half time, courtesy of strikes from Michał Kucharczyk (29) and Maciej Rybus (43), but the tie looked to be heading for a nervous period of extra time with the score after 90 minutes the same as that of the first leg, 2-2, making the aggregate score-line an all-level 4-4. However, it was to be a complete turnaround of fortunes for the visitors, in the second minute of time added on, when Janusz Gol bagged the winner which was timed at 90+2.
It was not to be a good night for the Scottish FA, as all three of their teams in the Play-Off Round fell out of the tournament at this stage. Hearts, despite faring better than their 5-0 home loss to Spurs, could not make a dent on that as a 0-0 away draw saw them fail to reach the UEFA Group Stages. Rangers could only muster a 1-1 home draw with Maribor which means they go out from a 2-3 aggregate score-line.
Celtic fared no better as they fell to a 3-1 away loss at FS Sion which puts them out, too, though they have since lodged an appeal with UEFA which is to be heard this week.
Another cross-town rivalry, this time in Italy, saw two sides experience dramatically different results. At the same time as Roma were being humbled by Slovan Bratislava, who put them out with a 1-2 aggregate result, their bitter enemies at Lazio were luxuriating in the biggest aggregate win of the round, as they added a 3-1 away victory to the 6-0 home win achieved last week over Rabotnicki Skopje – they progressed with a 9-1 aggregate score.
Full results from the Play-Off round are detailed below.
UEFA Europa League 2011/12 Play-Off Round Results – Thursday 25 August 2011
- AEK Larnaca 2-1 Rosenborg (Larnaca qualify 2-1 on aggregate)
- Alania Vladikavkaz 2-0 Besiktas (Besiktas qualify 2-3 on aggregate)
- Anderlecht 2-2 Bursaspor (Anderlecht qualify 4-3 on aggregate)
- AZ Alkmaar 6-0 Aalesunds FK (Alkmaar qualify 7-2 on aggregate)
- Birmingham 3-0 Nacional (Birmingham qualify 3-0 on aggregate)
- Club Bruges 2-0 FC Zestafoni (Bruges qualify 5-3 on aggregate)
- CSKA Sofia 1-1 Steaua Bucharest (Steaua Bucharest qualify 1-3 on aggregate)
- Dinamo Bucharest 2-3 Vorskla Poltava (Vorskla Poltava qualify 3-5 on aggregate)
- Dinamo Tbilisi 1-1 AEK Athens (1-1 on aggregate) (AEK Athens qualify, away goals rule)
- Dnipro 1-0 Fulham (Fulham qualify 1-3 on aggregate)
- Dynamo Kiev 1-0 Litex Lovech (Dynamo Kiev qualify 3-1 on aggregate)
- FC Sion 3-1 Celtic (FC Sion qualify 3-1 on aggregate)
- FC Spartak Trnava 1-1 Lokomotiv Moscow (Lokomotiv Moscow qualify 1-3 on aggregate)
- Gaz Metan Medias 1-0 Austria Vienna (Austria Vienna qualify 2-3 on aggregate)
- Guimaraes 0-4 Atletico Madrid (Atletico Madrid qualify 0-6 on aggregate)
- Hapoel Tel-Aviv 4-0 Ekranas Panevezys (Hapoel Tel-Aviv qualify 4-1 on aggregate)
- Helsingborgs 1-3 Standard Liege (Standard Liege qualify 1-4 on aggregate)
- Karpaty Lviv 1-1 PAOK Salonika (PAOK Salonika qualify 1-3 on aggregate)
- Panathinaikos 2-1 Macc Tel-Aviv (Macc Tel-Aviv qualify 2-4 on aggregate)
- Paris SG 2-0 Differdange (Paris SG qualify 6-0 on aggregate)
- Partizan Belgrade 1-2 Shamrock Rovers (Shamrock Rovers qualify 2-3 on aggregate)
- PSV Eindhoven 5-0 SV Ried (PSV qualify 5-0 on aggregate)
- Rabotnicki Skopje 1-3 Lazio (Lazio qualify 1-9 on aggregate)
- Rangers 1-1 NK Maribor (Maribor qualify 2-3 on aggregate)
- Rapid Bucharest 1-1 Slask Wroclaw (Rapid Bucharest qualify 4-2 on aggregate)
- Red Bull Salzburg 1-0 Omonia Nicosia (2-2 on aggregate) (SV Red Bull Salzburg qualify, away goals rule)
- Rennes 4-0 Red Star Belgrade (Rennes qualify 6-1 on aggregate)
- Roma 1-1 Slovan Bratislava (Slovan Bratislava qualify 1-2 on aggregate)
- Schalke 04 6-1 HJK Helsinki (Schalke 04 qualify 6-3 on aggregate)
- Sevilla 1-1 Hannover 96 (Hannover qualify 2-3 on aggregate)
- Sochaux 0-4 FC Metalist Kharkiv (Metalist Kharkiv qualify 0-4 on aggregate)
- Spartak Moscow 2-3 Legia Warsaw (Legia Warsaw qualify 4-5 on aggregate)
- Sparta Prague 1-0 FC Vaslui (Vaslui qualify 1-2 on aggregate)
- Sporting 2-1 FC Nordsjaelland (Sporting qualify 2-1 on aggregate)
- Stoke 4-1 FC Thun (Stoke qualify 5-1 on aggregate)
- Tottenham 0-0 Hearts (Spurs qualify 5-0 on aggregate)
- Young Boys 2-2 Braga (2-2 on aggregate) (Braga qualify, away goals rule)
The Group Stage draw for the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League takes place at 12:45pm CET on Friday 26 August 2011, at the Grimaldi Forum, Monte Carlo, Monaco. The Global Herald shall be in attendance to provide an up-to-the-minute appraisal.