Europa League: Late leveller cannot save Steaua

FC Sheriff and FC Steaua Bucuresti traded late goals in a 1-1 draw that maintains the Moldovan champions’ hopes of progressing from Group H while eliminating their Romanian visitors.

A tight game of few chances came alive in the last seven minutes as Amath Diedhiou’s strike looked to have earned the hosts the points before Juan Toja’s half-volley brought the visitors to level moments later. With FC Twente losing at home to Fenerbahce SK, Sheriff sit two points behind the second-placed Dutch side going into their final fixture in Istanbul.

Although Sheriff and Steaua occupied the section’s bottom two places at kick-off, there was a lack ambition among both sets of players in the first half. The home team’s Constantin Arbanas shot over in the 17th minute, but there was precious little further action until Sheriff’s Vladimir Volkov overran the ball as he bore down on goal a minute before the break. The hosts’ best chance was soon followed by the visitors’, as Banel Nicolita’s cross was headed centimetres wide by Bogdan Stancu.

In need of nothing less than victory, Steaua had to open up. In the 55th minute Nicolita delivered another accurate centre which goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco could only spill at the feet of substitute Pantelis Kapetanos. However, with his first touch after coming on, the replacement could only side-foot against the bar with the goalkeeper and defenders scrambling to cover.

In Timisoara AFC Ajax made certain of a place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 draw with a 2-1 Group A victory at FC Timisoara, the scoreline concealing a wealth of drama at the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium.

Martin Jol’s side conceded within two minutes of kick-off, but were on level terms six minutes later through Luis Suarez. Within 60 seconds of the restart, Marko Pantelic made it 2-1 before a remarkable passage of play saw two Timisoara players – including goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon – dismissed, while the irrepressible Suarez had near-identical penalty kicks saved by different custodians. Timisoara are out, but this at least was a game they will struggle to forget.

It began so well for Ioan Ovidiu Sabau’s men, who ended a four-game wait for a first home goal of the season when Gheorghe Bucur set up Dorin Goga to clip a hesitant-looking shot past Maarten Stekelenburg. Ajax responded quickly though, with Suarez bamboozling Artavazd Karamyan before darting a low shot through Pantilimon’s hands with the outside of his boot. Chances abounded thereafter, but compared to the second half it was pretty mild.

Last night, after the closing of this edition the matches Dinamo Bucuresti – Sturm Graz and FC Kobenhavn-CFR Cluj took place.

Results on matchday5

Group A

FC Timisoara 1 – 2 AFC Ajax

RSC Anderlecht 0 – 1 NK Dinamo Zagreb

Group B

Valencia CF 3 – 1 LOSC Lille Metropole

SK Slavia Praha 0 – 0 Genoa CFC

Group C

Celtic FC 2 – 0 Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC

Hamburger SV 2 – 0 SK Rapid Wien

Group G

FC Salzburg 2 – 1 S.S. Lazio

Levski Sofia 0 – 2 Villarreal CF

Group H

FC Sheriff 1 – 1 FC Steaua

FC Twente 0 – 1 Fenerbahce

Group I

BATE Borisov 1 – 2 Benfica

AEK Athens FC 0 – 1 Everton

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