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February 25, 2021

Europa League: Lech Poznan hold off Juventus to gain progress

Vincenzo Iaquinta’s late equa­liser was not enough to prevent KKS Lech Poznan from advancing to the UEFA Europa League knockout rounds at the expense of Juventus on Wednesday night (final score 1-1).
Lech struck after 12 minutes when Artjoms Rudnevs followed up his Matchday 1 hat-trick in Turin with a headed opener, and were the superior team until Iaquinta levelled with six minutes to play. Juve substitute Alberto Libertazzi missed a superb opportunity in the final minute, leaving Lech to seal a top-two finish alongside Manchester City FC in Group A, according to uefa.com.

Giorgio Chiellini scored two of Juve’s three goals in the 3-3 September draw between the sides, and was again upstaged by Rudnevs in tonight’s return as the striker rose above the Italy centre-back to flick in Semir Stilic’s inswinging corner at the near post.

Juve took time to adapt to the wintry conditions but could have equalised in the 33rd minute when Leonardo Bonucci failed to find the net from close range after Krzysztof Kotorowski could only parry Alessandro Del Piero’s driven free-kick from distance.

Although Lech were playing the more enterprising football, they needed some alert keeping from Kotorowski to go into the break ahead as he denied Iaquinta when one on one. Lech substitute Marcin Kikut was even more wasteful just after the hour, shooting over having created a clear opening by nicking the ball off Chiellini just outside the area.

He was almost made to pay as Alessandro Del Piero nodded a Milos Krasic cross just wide when well placed at the far post. The lively Serbian international did a play a part in the leveller, though, threading through for Iaquinta who turned the ball into the far corner.

Cue a frantic finale in which Libertazzi, albeit falling backwards, failed to get the power behind a header when unmarked that would have won the game for Juventus. Instead, the unbeaten Italian giants are left playing for pride in a fortnight’s time when Lech will be looking to secure first place.

Midfielder Semir Stilic expects to feel a sweet sense of satisfaction after setting up KKS Lech Poznan team-mate Artjoms Rudnevs for his fourth goal against Juventus.

“Games like this against teams like Juventus and Manchester City [FC] are vital for us because it gives us great experience and helps us build confidence for the games ahead,” said Stilic quoted by uefa.com. “We are proving that we are moving in the right direction. Now we are playing and matching European giants. Slowly but surely we are building the future of this club.”

Other results on Europa League groups on Wednesday night: Hajduk Split- AEK 1 – 3; Young Boys – Stuttgart 4 – 2; Odense – Getafe 1 – 1; Sampdoria – PSV 1 – 2; Metalist- Debrecen 2 – 1; Zenit- Anderlecht 3 – 1; Atletico – Aris 2-3; Rosenborg – Leverkusen 0 – 1; Gent – Levski 1 – 0; Man. City – Salzburg 3 – 0; Sporting – Lille 1 – 0.

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