DAVID SMITH - Sunday, December 18, 2011
Sacha Kljestan helped Anderlecht finish a perfect Europa League group stage while a win over Maribor wasn't enough to push Jonathan Spector and Birmingham through to the knockout stage
Lazio 2 - 0 Sporting Lisbon
Oguchi Onyewu played the first 76 minutes in Sporting's defense, as a shut-out loss on their trip to Lazio still saw them through as group winners.
Lazio took the lead three minutes before the halftime break, when Senad Lulic advanced into the left side of the penalty area and hit a no-look cross to the far post which Libor Kozák headed in for 1-0.
Needing the full three points to absolutely assure their spot in the knockout round, the Italians made it certain ten minutes after the break as Mobido Diakité charged forward on the right side and hit a short diagonal ball to the unmarked Giuseppe Sculli for the easy score.
Sporting still finish atop Group D, with the Italians three points behind in second. They will have until mid-February to concentrate solely on league action, then will face Polish team Legia Warsaw over two legs in the round of 32.
FC Fulham 2 - 2 Odense BK
Clint Dempsey's 27th-minute score helped Fulham to build a two-goal lead over Group K last-place team Odense BK, however a second-half collapse which allowed the Danes to fight back for a draw saw the Cottagers' European run come to an end before the new year.
Fulham struck first three minutes before the half-hour, with Kerim Frei streaking up the left side before finding Bobby Zamora just inside the area with a sharply hit pass.
Zamora calmly slipped the ball back into Dempsey's path for a low shot that bounced to the left of the Odense keeper and just inside the post for the lead.
They looked well on their way to the knockout round after doubling their lead four minutes later, this time with Moussa Dembélé slipping the ball forward to Frei for a low shot between the keeper's legs for 2-0.
Odense kept up the fight and pulled one back in the 64th minute thanks to a fine free kick by Hans Henrick Andreasen that flew through an opening in the Fulham wall and just inside the left post.
Dempsey left the game in the 72nd minute in favor of Irish international Damien Duff, and was forced to watch from the bench as the team's hopes for another deep run through the knockout stage were put to rest at the death.
Three minutes into stoppage time, Djiby Fall got his head on a perfectly hit cross by Espen Ruud, sending the ball into the net and quieting the previously-buoyant crowd.
The loss combined with Wisla Krakow's home victory over Twente sees Fulham finish the group stage in third place, giving them only domestic competitions to worry about for the rest of the season.
RSC Anderlecht 5 - 3 Lokomotiv Moscow
Sacha Kljestan bagged a first-half goal for Anderlecht as they made it six wins from six in Group L in a wild eight-goal game at home against Lokomotiv Moscow.
While the Russians did strike first in 21st minute, Kljestan's 33rd-minute score which was quickly followed by a strike from Fernando Canesin gave the Belgian team a lead they would not relinquish.
With the win, Anderlecht are through to the round of 32 as undisputed Group L winners, where they will face Jozy Altidore and AZ beginning mid-February.
Details of the game are given in a Yanks Abroad press box report.
AZ Alkmaar 1 - 1 Metalist Kharkiv
Jozy Altidore played the full 90 minutes for Alkmaar, as a home draw against Group H winners Metalist Kharkiv was still enough to land them a spot in the knockout round.
While both teams fought tooth and nail for the points, the result was ultimately decided in a frenetic space of less than 30 seconds during which saw both teams fight their way onto the scoreboard.
In the 37th minute, a shot by Serhiy Valiyaev was blocked by AZ keeper Esteban Alvarado, however found its way to the foot of Marko Devic for an easy six-yard strike.
On the subsequent kickoff, AZ advnced the ball quickly up the right side and Etienne Reijnen hit a cross from the touchline which Adam Maher struck in just inside the near post.
AZ were the better of the two teams for the remainder, but were unable to break through for a winner, with each team taking their share of the points.
The result leaves AZ level on points with Austria Vienna, however they win by way of a superior goal differential. They have two months to dedicate to their various domestic campaigns before returning to European action in mid-February against Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht.
Birmingham City FC 1 - 0 NK Maribor
Jonathan Spector played the full 90 minutes at right back for Birmingham, however a tight one-goal win at home over Slovenian team NK Maribot wasn't enough to lift them out of third place.
Birmingham's chance to extend their European campaign through to next year was contingent not only upon them winning, however they needed second-place team Braga to also come out victorious over leaders Brugge to win the necessary tie-breakers.
Even though Spector and his teammates upheld their end of the bargain, it wasn't enough to see them through in the end.
17 year-old midfielder Nathan Redmond was the star of the evening, regularly sending in dangerous passes from the right side of the field.
One such came in the 24th minute, as the England youth international worked into space on the right flank and struck a cross to the far post, which Adam Rooney headed in for the lone goal of the game.
With Group H top two teams Brugge and Braga playing to a 1-1 draw and each ending on 11 points, Birmingham finish one point behind in third place, and will turn their gaze towards making a push for promotion back to the Premier League.
Jermaine Jones was left off the Schalke roster that traveled to Israel to defeat Maccabi Haifa by a 3-0 score on Wednesday.
Brad Friedel did not make the trip with Tottenham to Ireland for their 4-0 win over Shamrock Rovers. The result was not enough to push the team through to the knockout stage, giving them no further European competition until next season.
Steve Cherundolo was out on yellow card suspension and did not suit up for Hannover 3-1 home win over Ukrainian team Vorskla Poltava. Hannover still finish second place in Group B behind Standard Liege, and will face Brugge in the round of 32 beginning in February.