German clubs continued their fine form in Europe on Thursday in the Europa League. With Hannover and Leverkusen having already booked their place in the next round on the previous matchday, it was up to Stuttgart and Gladbach to make it a perfect 7 out of 7 for Bundesliga clubs advancing out of their groups in Europe. In the end both Gladbach and Stuttgart bounced back admirably after an underwhelming start to the group. Gladbach capitalized on a Marseille loss to book their place in the knockout stage after a big win against AEL Limassol while Stuttgart’s rout in Romania puts their destiny firmly in their hands for the last matchday.
Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 – 0 AEL Limassol
Lucien Favre’s team were the big winners of the day after a hard fought and arguably their most important win of the season. Substitute De Camargo’s brace in the second half was enough to see off the stubborn Cypriot champions despite what at times was a very underwhelming performance at home. Fenerbahce’s win in the other group stage match ensured that Gladbach were through to the next round due to their advantage in the head to head with Marseille should they finish equal on points.
Favre made only one change from the weekend, Ring starting on the right instead of Rupp. He warned of a difficult game beforehand and he was proven right as Gladbach labored through a difficult 90 minutes. With nothing to play for Limassol were the more confident and dangerous side and Gladbach had to patiently and nervously work their way into the game, often taking speculative shots from distance when they weren’t misplacing passes in their build up.
It was the same story in the second half and even though the guests slowed down Gladbach were still struggling to inspire offensively and looked shaky in many areas of the pitch. It wasn’t until Favre brought on De Camargo in the 74th minute and Limassol had a player sent off that Gladbach finally broke through. Nordtveit set up De Camargo minutes after to give Gladbach the all important lead before the super sub added their second from a Herrmann cross in the 90th minute. Not a classic by any means but one that will mean more than any other considering their slow start to the group.
Ter Stegen – Jantschke, Stranzl, Dominguez, Wendt – Nordtveit, Marx (Xhaka) – Ring (Mlapa), Arango – Herrmann – Hanke (De Camargo)
Steaua Bucharest 1 – 5 Stuttgart
They may not have secured their passage to the knockout stage just yet but Stuttgart’s dominant win and performance in Romania was one of the most impressive on the day and quite possibly their best of the season. A win against Molde on the final matchday will put Stuttgart through and if their performance is anything like the one against Steaua Bruno Labbadia’s men are all but through. The Romanian had already booked their place in the knockout rounds last time and as a result rested several players but Stuttgart still had to get past one of the most in form teams in Europe. Labbadia kept the same team that beat Gladbach over the weekend with the exception of Okazaki who started for Traore.
With the mission clear and seemingly everything on the line Stuttgart responded brilliantly and put in a first half performance that stands as one of their best in years in Europe. Captain Tasci opened the scoring in the 5th minute from a corner and 13 minutes later Kuzmanovic again provided the assist on set piece which Harnik headed home in the far corner. The Japanese connection of Sakai and Okazaki ran wild for the remainder of the game. First Okazaki set up Sakai for his first Stuttgart goal before the right back returned the favor and assisted Okazaki for the fourth. Referee Michail Koukoulakis still had 14 minutes to play in the first half.
Even though Steaua supporters started leaving before the break Stuttgart were not done yet and added a fifth shortly after the restart, again through the impressive Okazaki. The Romanians found a consolation goal in the end but the match had already been over. Where Steaua went wrong with their 3-4-3 formation Labbadia’s team got everything right. Kuzmanovic brought the necessary drive in the middle and Okazaki was an inspired change. Stuttgart won the battle in the middle and attacked quicker than Steaua could react. After a performance like this it begs the question, why did Stuttgart not play like this at the beginning of the season?
Tatarusanu – Szukala, Chiriches, Gardos (Costea) – Bourceanu, Pintilii (Prepelita), Chipciu, Latovlevici – Popa, Rusescu, Tanase (Adi)
Ulreich – Sakai (Rüdiger), Tasci, Maza, Molinaro – Kvist, Gentner (Hajnal), Kuzmanovic – Harnik (Traore), Ibisevic, Okazai
Metalist Charkiv 2 – 0 Bayer Leverkusen
With qualification sealed for both teams the only thing remaining was to play for top spot in the group. Leverkusen coaches Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski instead used this opportunity to rest key players and give some youngsters their chance. The result was a young makeshift line up. Seven changes were made after their big win against Schalke over the weekend with young guns Pusch, Kohr and Steffen all making their first team debuts.
Even though it was an unfamiliar lineup Leverkusen were probably the more dangerous side in the first half but couldn’t make any of their chances count. It was Metalist’s South American contingent who made the difference for them in the second half, the talented Cristaldo adding their first in the 46th minute and Xavier the second five minutes from time. These were the first two goals conceded by Leverkusen in Europe this season but all was not for naught because several youngsters gained valuable experience including Aidyn and Meffert who came on in the second half.
Goryainov – Villagra, Gueye, Torsiglieri, Fininho – Torres – Willian (Marlos), Edmar, Xavier, Taison (Sharpar) – Cristaldo (Blanco)
Leno – Carlinhos, Wollscheid, Friedrich, Pusch – Hegelar, Reinartz (Meffert) – Kohr, Steffen (Aydin) – Renato Augusto – Junior Fernandes (Kiessling)
Hannover 0 – 0 Twente
Like Leverkusen, Hannover already sealed their qualification to the knockout rounds two weeks ago but first place was still up for grabs and unlike Lewandowski and Hyypia, Slomka’s lineup suggested he wanted to finish on top of the group. In the end the draw meant that Hannover remained in first but Levante trail them only by a single point and their meeting on December 6th will decide the order of the group.
Unlike their previous encounter in this group, this match was a lot more subdued and cautious. Stindl, Rausch, Diouf, Abdellaoue and Sakai sat the game out with the upcoming match against Bayern but Slomka still fielded a strong enough side. The Hannover coach urged a return to old strengths before the match but Hannover were uninspiring to say the least and the same can be said for the guests. Few chances were strung together and creativity was sorely lacking on both ends so the game fittingly finished in a goalless draw.
Zieler – Cherundolo, Eggimann, Haggui, Pander – Pinto, Schulz – Schlaudraff (Ya Konan), Huszti (Rausch) – Sobiech, Nikci (Schmiedebach)
FC Twente Enschede
Boschker – Rosales (Breukers), Bengtsson, Douglas, Braafheid – Janssen, Brama, Pelupessy (Fer) – Gutierrez, Bulykin (Castaignos), Tadic
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