Valencia, Anderlecht reach Europa League last 32

December 17, 2009

David Villa missed a penalty then scored a last-minute winner as Valencia won 2-1 at Genoa to reach the knockout phase of the Europa League on Thursday.

After Santor Bruno gave the Spanish side the lead in the final minute of the first half, Hernan Crespo equalized for Genoa in the 51st.

With Lille beating Slavia Prague 3-1, another goal for the home side would have sent the Italian side through and put Valencia out. But Euro 2008 topscorer Villa fired a penalty kick wide in the 86th minute before netting a second for Valencia which finished top of Group B with Lille second and Genoa third and out of the competition.

On the final day of group games, Anderlecht won 3-1 at already-qualified Ajax to capture top spot in Group A and a place in the last 32.

Two strikes in the first 22 minutes by Romelu Lukaku put the Belgian side in control in Amsterdam and Jonathan Legear added a third a minute before halftime. Although Urby Emanuelson replied in the second half for Ajax, the four-time European champion had to be content with reaching the knockout phase as a group runner-up because of an inferior head-to-head record with the two teams finishing level on 11 points.

In a meeting of teams who had already qualified, Hapoel Tel Aviv beat Hamburg 1-0 with a 23rd-minute goal by Samuel Yeboah to overtake the German side and finish top of Group C.

FC Twente reached the last 32 as Group H runner-up after a 1-1 draw away to Steaua Bucharest. Moldova's Sheriff failed to make it after losing 1-0 at group winner Fenerbahce, which finished seven points clear.

Already through are group winners Sporting Lisbon, AS Roma, Galatasaray, Salzburg, Fenerbahce, Benfica, Shakhtar Donetsk, PSV Eindhoven and Werder Bremen and runners-up Hertha Berlin, Fulham, Panathinaikos, Villarreal, Everton, FC Brugge, FC Copenhagen and Athletic Bilbao.

The 24 qualifiers go into Friday's draw for the first knockout round along with the eight clubs who are also included as a consolation for finishing third in their Champions League groups.

The eight include former European champions Juventus, Liverpool and Marseille. The others are Wolfsburg, Atletico Madrid, Rubin Kazan, Unirea Urziceni and Standard Liege.