FOX Soccer Exclusive
Only one British club makes it out of Europa groups
Tottenham, Birmingham and Celtic all fell out of European football tonight as the final four slots in the Europa League were decided. Rubin Kazan, Udinese, Brugges and Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar sealed their progress into the round of 32.
Also tonight, the long-running legal battle surrounding the tournament was finally put to bed when the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled for UEFA against Swiss side FC Sion. Sion had been expelled from the tournament in favor of Celtic due to their use of ineligible players.
The draw for both the knockout rounds of the Champions League and the Europa League’s round of 32 will be held tomorrow in Nyon. Live coverage of the draw is on FOX Soccer tomorrow at 5 a.m. ET; results of those draws will also be streamed on @FOXSoccer on the Twitter service.
Despite winning their final games, both Tottenham and Birmingham failed to make up enough ground to advance. Celtic, who got an heroic performance out of `keeper Fraser Forster, were unlucky to only come away with a 1-1 draw against Udinese in Italy.
Yet, despite what by measures was a fine night for British clubs, the fact is Europe has not been kind to British teams. Only Stoke made it out of the Europa League group stages. Were it not for Manchester City and Manchester United crashing out of the Champions League, the Potters would be the lone representatives from Britain in the Europa League.
The ask was always tougher for Spurs, who had to make up a five-goal difference and see Rubin Kazan lose, but in the end, the Londoners came darn close. Slotting four past tiny Shamrock Rovers, Spurs looked for a time like a side that might ride the same vein of luck that struck Champions Leaguers Lyon in Zagreb. Youngsters Andros Townsend and Harry Kane both impressed and scored on a night that showed Spurs at least have some promise for the future.
What they didn’t get was help. PAOK could not eke out a home win against a Rubin side that had their keeper Sergei Ryzhikov sent off in the 13th minute. That was believed to be Ryzhikov’s first career red and it came after he took out Giorgos Georgiadis in the box. PAOK’s Vieirinha stepped up and smartly sunk the penalty past sub Giedrius Arlauskis, but the Greeks would not hold the lead, as Nelson Valdez would tie the game 1-1 just after the break. With that, Rubin were through.
Birmingham also won, downing Maribor at St. Andrews thanks to a single goal from Adam Rooney. But because Portugal's Sporting Braga could not overcome Brugges in Belgium, Birmingham fell out despite taking 10 points. Braga were put behind the eight-ball early when they had Elderson sent off in the 16th minute. Despite that, Brugges struggled against the 1--man Portuguese side, finally getting a goal in the 15 from Bjorn Vleminckx. Ewerton would tie matters up fifteen minutes later and the Belgians endured a nervy finish.
Celtic knew they only had to win to get in, a tall order considering they had only won one European away game in their last 32 attempts. It’s now 33 attempts, as this one ended up a 1-1 draw and with Celtic on the curb.
Gary Hooper was fortunate to open the Scots’ account when a Giorgos Samaras cross was parried by `keeper Samir Handanovic into the back of teammate Joel Ekstrand’s head. The ball fell kindly and Hooper tucked it in to give the Glaswegians hope. But Antonio Di Natale’s volley in first-half stoppage, a gift from Celtic’s Cha Du-Ri, settled matters. Both teams traded blows throughout the second half, with Cha hitting the woodwork, Forster called on to make a critical stop on Di Natale, and Kwadwo Asamoah seeing his attempt go off the post.
Jozy Altidore’s AZ Alkmaar got a nervy 1-1 draw with group winners Metalist thanks to Adam Maher, but the story of the night was Ukranian `keeper Oleksandr Goryainov. Metalist had chosen to give many of their stars the night off, leaving Goryainov alone to fend away the attacks. He was superb, making save after save, including a stop at full stretch on the American striker. That draw was enough for the Dutch side thanks to Austria Vienna’s poorer goal difference, despite the Austrian’s 2-0 win over Malmo.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid downed Rennes 3-1 to top their group while Hannover pounded Vorskla 3-1. Steve Cherundolo was rested in that match. Standard Liege maintained their unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win over Copenhagen while already-qualified Legia lost 2-0 to Hapoel Tel Aviv. Finally, PSV Eindhoven beat Rapid 2-1.
Jamie Trecker is the senior editor for FOXSoccer.com covering the UEFA Champions League and the Barclays Premier League.
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