DAVID SMITH - Friday, September 30, 2011
Jozy Altidore added yet another goal to his growing season total as AZ took a point in Ukraine, while Jonathan Spector and Birmingham showed signs of life during their win at NK Maribor.
Lokomotiv Moscow 0 - 2 RSC Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan went the distance for Anderlecht on Thursday evening as a goal on either side of the half against Lokomotiv Moscow pushed them into the Group L pole position.
The game had barely gotten underway when Anderlecht took an early lead, after Brazilian midfielder Kanu headed the ball from the left side of goal to Mathias Suarez, who controlled it just enough to slap it on the turn into goal for 1-0.
The Russians poured on the pressure for the remainder of the contest, facing a stout and unbreakable Anderlecht defense that stifled them at every turn.
The visitors then efficiently dealt their hosts the death blow on just their second attack of the game in the 70th minute. After Victor Obinna fouled Kljestan 30 yards out on the left side, Lucas Biglia rocketed a free kick which Deiudonne Mbokani rose to head past the helpless keeper for the insurance goal.
The victory pushes the Belgians alone to the top of the group on six points, now leading both Lokomotiv and Sturm Graz by three.
Anderlecht next suit up on Sunday evening when they visit defending league champions KRC Genk, and return to Europa League action on October 20 with a trip to the Austrians.
Metalist Kharkiv 1 - 1 AZ Alkmaar
Jozy Altidore had anther standout performance for AZ on Thursday, netting his fourth goal of the European campaign as they held on for a draw in Ukraine against Metalist Kharkiv.
The American put his team ahead in the 26th minute when he ran onto a perfectly-weighted through-ball from Ragnar Klavan and needed just one touch to settle it before slotting home to the lower right corner.
A fairly even game saw both teams create a number of chances, but a late push by the Ukrainians eventually earned them the point in the 77th minute. Jose Ernesto Sosa dropped the ball off to Taison on the right outside of the box, and the Brazilian forward cut inwards to the edge of the area and hit a low drive that just grazed the left upright on its way into the net.
Altidore left the game with eight minutes remaining in regulation, although both teams were happy to settle for the draw at this point and neither pushed forward in the last minutes.
With the draw, AZ and Metalist remain tied atop Group G, although the Dutch do hold a slight edge on goal differential. They will host Austria Vienna on October 20 in their next group game, although must first try to protect their lead atop the Eredivisie when they visit Venlo on Sunday.
NK Maribor 1 - 2 Birmingham City FC
Jonathan Spector played the full 90 minutes in the Birmingham defense, as they overcame a first-half gaffe to fight back for the win against Slovenian team NK Maribor.
After losing their Group H opener in humiliating fashion against Braga, Birmingham looked in for another rough night when they served up Maribor's opening goal in the 29th minute on a silver platter.
Spector made a poor pass back to his keeper Colin Doyle, which was hit too softly and drifted across the area just slow enough to allow Dalibor Volas to pressure Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle. The Irish international whiffed on his attempt to clear it, allowing Volas to continue his charge and tap the ball into the empty net.
Birmingham pulled even in the 64th minute as Marlon King slipped the ball to Chris Burke on the run, and the Scottish midfielder poked the ball around his nearest defender and placed his low shot under the reach of Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovic.
The English team then gave their traveling fans reason to cheer with 11 minutes on the clock, as a long ball to the edge of the box took a bounce off of Morgaro Gomis then a Maribor defender before landing at the foot of Wade Elliott for a low shot that trickled in just inside the left post.
Birmingham remain third in the group, trailing Braga by goal differential. They hit the road to face leaders Brugge on October 20, but must first get a hold on their faltering league campaign, beginning with a visit to Notthingham Forest on Sunday.
Odense BK 2 - 0 Fulham FC
Clint Dempsey was his usual imperious self for Fulham on Thursday, assisting on the team's opening goal as a double from Andrew Johnson saw them past Danish team Odense BK.
The hosts were painfully close on several instances in the first half-hour, but it was Fulham who struck first with the opener in the 36th minute.
Dempsey laid the ball off to Johnson on the left side, and the shiny-headed English striker cut inwards before striking a low shot from 16 yards that Stefan Wessels had no chance to save.
Stunned by the sudden deficit, Odense needed until the second half to regain their composure, but pushed hard for the equalizer throughout the final 45 minutes.
Fulham did a good job to hold onto their lead, and finally confirmed the result with two minutes on the clock as Johnson pulled down a long ball at the edge of the box, took a quick cut to evade his defender and looped a shot to the far upper corner for 2-0.
Moments later, Odense were reduced to ten men and saw the chance to score even a consolation goal evaporate after Kalilou Traore was sent off for a second yellow card.
Fulham are tied with Twente on points atop Group K, although they trail by the narrowest of goal differentials. They next face last-place team Wisla Krakow in three weeks, but will first try to earn their first Premier League win of the season when they host QPR on Sunday.
Vorskla Poltava 1 - 2 Hannover 96
Steve Cherundolo returned to the Hannover starting lineup, playing the full 90 minutes and picking up a yellow card as they held on for an impressive road win over Vorskla Poltava.
The Germans were in the lead two minutes past the half-hour thanks to the foot of red-hot Mohamed Abdellaoui, who controlled the ball in the midfield and advanced towards goal before launching a fantastic 30-yard strike to the lower left corner.
The Reds struck again moments before the half, with former Schalke player Christian Pander collecting a cross from Jan Schlaudraff and successfully one-timing his shot from a tight angle.
The Ukrainians did pull one goal back in the 50th minute when a clearance landed at the foot of Oleksiy Kurilov for a wicked strike from the edge of the area, but an increasingly slowing pace through the second half saw the final 2-1 result stand.
Hannover now sit second in Group B, trailing Liege by goal differential. They face off against Danish powerhouse Copenhagen in three weeks, but must first concentrate on their Bundesliga campaign which sees them hosting Werder Bremen on Sunday.
Sporting CP 2 - 1 Lazio
Oguchi Onyewu helped Sporting extend their winning streak to five games across all competitions, playing the full 90 minutes in the back as they surged past Italian visitors Lazio.
Sporting were off and running with the opening goal in the 21st minute, as Ricky van Wolfswinkel slipped in to flick in a cross by Diego Capel.
Lazio briefly pulled even in the 40th minute when he got on the end of a long free kick by Hernanes, however it was short lived as a brilliant 35-yard strike by Emiliano Insua on the stroke of half returned the lead to the Portuguese.
Sporting were put into a tough position in the 51st minute after Insua was sent off for a second yellow card, but they nevertheless manage to hang onto the lead, picking up the crucial three points.
Sporting are alone atop Group D with six points, a full four ahead of their nearest rivals Vaslui. They host the Romanian team in three weeks in a game which could make advancement to the knockout round all but certain, but beforehand will try to run their streak to six when they visit Vitoria Guimaraes on Sunday.
Jermaine Jones finally made his return to the field for Schalke, playing the final 13 minutes as a late substitute on Thursday in their 3-1 home win over Maccabi Haifa.
Dominic Cervi was not in uniform for Celtic as they were only able to pull even at home against Udinese in a 1-1 draw.
Brad Friedel did not suit up for Tottenham on Thursday night for their strong 3-1 home win over Irish neighbors Shamrock Rovers.