Europa League roundup: What happened on Matchday 4?
Several clubs entered the early fixtures on Matchday 4 with a chance to secure a place in the Europa League knockout stage. Some were victorious in their quest to reach the round of 32, while others saw their dreams of progression come to an early end. However, uncertainty remains for a vast majority of teams.
An own goal and a Jordan Veretout penalty guided AS Roma to an easy 2-0 victory over CFR Cluj in Romania to guarantee a berth in the next round. Earlier in the day, Young Boys continued their impressive European campaign with a narrow 1-0 win over CSKA Sofia. The Swiss side sits comfortably in the second spot, three points up on Cluj with two matches to play.
In the early match, Mikel Arteta gave Nicolas Pepe a chance to redeem himself after picking up a red card last weekend. The Ivorian winger responded, bagging the winner to help Arsenal beat FK Molde 3-0 and win Group B. Despite the defeat, Molde are joint-second with Rapid Wien, who hammered Dundalk 3-1 in Ireland.
Slavia Prague bested Nice 3-1 on the Cote d'Azur, and Bayer Leverkusen destroyed Hapoel Beer Sheva 4-1 as Thursday's two winners sit joint-first in the quartet on nine points each. Both Slavia and Leverkusen are on the verge of qualifying for the next stage.
Benfica veteran Pizzi saved the Portuguese visitors' blushes with a late goal against Steven Gerrard's Rangers in a 2-2 draw that leaves the two sides on eight points apiece. Standard Liege snatched a late winner against Lech Poznan in a 2-1 result that puts the two sides on three points, five behind Benfica and Rangers.
Andalusian outfit Granada outlasted Cypriots Omonia Nicosia in a 2-1 win, and PSV stormed back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Greek side PAOK 3-2. The entire Group E, save for Nicosia, remain in contention to advance with two fixtures left. Granada continue to command first-place in the group on 10 points, with PSV second on six, and PAOK third on five.
It's a bit congested in this assemblage of four teams, with Napoli, Real Sociedad, and AZ Alkmaar separated by just two points after Thursday's slate. Napoli honored club legend Diego Maradona before facing off against Rijeka, who they topped 2-0. Alkmaar and Sociedad went through the paces in a goalless draw that keeps the pair locked on seven points, two adrift of Napoli.
Bulgarians Ludogorets got a taste of Carlos Vinicius, and they won't be going back for thirds after the striker opened his Tottenham account with a brace in a 4-0 victory. Harry Winks also potted an obscene cross-turned-shot from the car park. Royal Antwerp maintain a narrow grip on the top spot in the group over the Spurs after topping Austrians LASK 2-0 on the picturesque banks of the Danube earlier in the day.
Leicester City secured a spot in the round of 32 after coming from behind twice to draw SC Braga 3-3 in Portugal. Brendan Rodgers' men sit atop the group with a three-point edge over Braga heading into the penultimate matchday against last-place Zorya, who secured their first win of the competition versus AEK Athens on Thursday.
Celtic all but sealed their fate with a dismal 4-1 loss to Sparta Prague that leaves the Scottish side at the bottom of Group H with one point from four matches. Sparta Prague remain very much in the hunt for a place in the knockout stage, sitting one point back of Milan after the Italians drew 1-1 with leaders Lille.
It's wide-open in Group I, as La Liga high flyers Villarreal remained top of the troop following a 1-1 draw against second-place Maccabi Tel Aviv. Turkish minnows Sivasspor are right behind the Israelis after their 3-2 victory over Qarabag officially ended the Azerbaijani side's hopes of advancing to the knockout round.
This group promises to go down to the wire, with leaders Dinamo Zagreb and bottom side CSKA Moscow separated by just five points following the day's matches. Dinamo secured a vital 2-0 victory at Wolfsberger behind a Lovro Majer goal on the hour mark and a Bruno Petkovic finish with 15 minutes left. Feyenoord and CSKA shared the spoils in a goalless draw in Russia.
Christoph Baumgartner's second Europa League goal and Andrej Kramaric's injury-time penalty were enough for Hoffenheim to edge Slovan Liberec 2-0 in the Czech Republic and secure progression to the knockout round. Joining the midtable Bundesliga side are Red Star Belgrade, who dispatched Gent 2-0 in northern Belgium to ensure the Serbian giants finish no worse than second.