Europa League PIX: Roma finish second in group, Liverpool lose

AS Roma finished second in Europa League Group G after beating Moldovan side Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 on Thursday, courtesy of first-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and Andrea Belotti and a late strike by Niccolo Pisilli.

Slavia Prague held on to top spot in the group with a scintillating home performance to crush Servette 4-0 with first-half goals from David Doudera, Ivan Schranz, and a brace from Mojmir Chytil.

Liverpool, confirmed in the round of 16 as top of Group E, lost 2-1 to Union SG, who failed to reach the knockout play-offs as Toulouse became the runners-up thanks to a 2-1 win over LASK Linz.

Union’s Mohammed Amoura opened the scoring against Liverpool, who rested several key players. Jarell Quansah equalised seven minutes later but Cameron Puertas secured the victory for Union just before halftime.

Lukaku scored for Roma after 11 minutes by being in the right place at the right time to tap in Nicola Zalewski’s cross from a short distance.

After 32 minutes, Belotti extended the lead for the home side by heading the ball into an open net, capitalising on a rebound from Zalewski’s volley which had initially been clawed away by Sheriff keeper Maxym Koval.

Pisilli added the third goal deep into stoppage time with a low shot into the bottom corner.

Roma ended with 13 points, two behind Slavia Prague, and will move into the play-off rounds.

Group H winners Bayer Leverkusen ended Molde’s hopes of reaching the play-offs with a 5-1 thrashing that included an own goal from Molde midfielder Martin Ellingsen. Qarabag finished runners-up in the group instead, after a 2-1 win over bottom-placed Hacken.

Maccabi Haifa won 2-1 at Panathinaikos to finish third and enter the Europa Conference League knockout play-offs.

Late Pedro goal gives Brighton win over Marseille and top spot in Europa League group

Joao Pedro’s late goal earned Brighton & Hove Albion a dramatic 1-0 win over Olympique Marseille on Thursday to secure the hosts top spot in Europa League Group B.

Both sides went into the final matchday of the group stage assured of a place in the next round but Brighton needed all three points to progress directly to the round of 16 as leaders.

Marseille will now go into the play-off round after finishing two points behind Brighton with 11.

Pedro scored two minutes from time from a Pascal Gross pass with a superb shot into the top left corner to send the home crowd into raptures. The Brazilian reached six goals in six games in the tournament.

Marseille had come close to taking the lead with two shots hitting the woodwork early in each half.

In the other group fixture, Ajax won 3-1 at AEK Athens to finish third and go into the Europa Conference League knockout play-offs.

West Ham United comfortably secured the top spot in Group A with a 2-0 home victory against runners-up Freiburg, courtesy of first-half goals from Mohammed Kudus and Edson Alvarez.

Olympiakos concluded their campaign by securing third place following a 5-2 win at home against Serbian side Backa Topola featuring a rapid-fire brace from Daniel Podence.

A dramatic Group C decider ended with Rangers clinching top spot with a 3-2 win over Real Betis thanks to Kemar Roofe’s strike from a corner in the 78th minute.

Betis took third place and will go into the knockout play-offs of the Europa Conference League after Sparta Prague finished second by beating Aris Limassol 3-1 with a brace from Veljko Birmancevic.

Atalanta emerged as the winners of Group D following a 4-0 victory at Rakow with Luis Muriel scoring twice to complete their group stage unbeaten.

Sporting finished second despite a 3-0 home victory against Sturm Graz, with Goncalo Inacio scoring twice from corners. The Austrian side claimed the third spot in the group.

The draw for the knockout round play-off games, featuring the eight runners-up from the Europa League groups and the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage, will be made on Monday.

Rennes denied late Europa League equaliser due to little-known rule

In a pulsating Group F clash, Villarreal won 3-2 away to Stade Rennais to snatch top spot from the hosts on 13 points, one clear of the French side.

Rennes thought they had earned a dramatic draw but the VAR disallowed Lorenz Assignon’s last-gasp goal for offside.

Rennes manager Julien Stephan said he had ridden an “emotional elevator” after his side had a dramatic late equaliser chalked off in Thursday’s Europa League match against Villarreal due to one of football’s little-known rules.

Enzo le Fee’s free kick in the 11th minute of stoppage time stuck the woodwork and rebounded back to the midfielder, who put the ball back into the box before Lorenz Assignon slammed into the net.

Rennes players celebrated wildly but their joy turned to despair after a VAR check ruled the goal out, with most in the French stadium believing it was for offside.

However, under the laws of the game, Le Fee was not allowed to be the first player to touch the ball after he took the free kick.

“If the player taking the kick-off touches the ball again before it has touched another player, an indirect free kick … is awarded,” the law states.

“I knew the rule existed for penalties, I didn’t know it existed for free kicks,” Stephan said.

The win saw Villarreal leapfrog Rennes to the top of Group F and directly qualify for the round of 16. Rennes finished second and must now go through a playoff against a team dropping down from the Champions League to qualify.

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