As promised in yesterday’s article, 5 more Champions League Group Stage spots were handed out around Europe today with all but one of the matches determined by 3+ goals on aggregate.
The most obvious and emphatic result of the day came from Russia where Zenit St. Petersberg eased by Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal with a 4-2 home win to complete an 8-3 stomping on aggregate of the much less fancied side in the tie. Despite the indications you may get from the score line provided, the visitors controlled the majority of the possession with PDF holding the ball 54% of the time, although Zenit had double the number of their shots on goal (12) with the pick of the goals coming courtesy of an absolutely sumptuous chip from Danny that will truly be on the highlight reel for a long time.
AC Milan also took care of business at home as they avoided a tricky tie against PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands and advanced without much worry 4-1 on aggregate. Securing the 1-1 draw away to PSV was crucial for Milan and they were able to play a bit more open and carefree in the second leg at the San Siro, with both Mario Balotelli and Kevin Prince Boateng scoring in Milan’s 3-0 romp.
Off we go to Slovenia now for Maribor’s home match against Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic. Plzen had amassed a 3-1 victory in the first leg and appeared all systems go for the Champions League short of a major meltdown in the away leg, a meltdown the Czech club successfully avoided by actually winning the match 1-0 on a 3rd minute goal by Stanislav Tecl and advanced on aggregate 4-1.
The final blowout result of the day came courtesy of Real Sociedad with the Spanish side completing their surprisingly easy dispatching of Olympique Lyon by beating the one-time French giants 2-0 in Sociedad to go along with a 2-0 win back in France. The goals came courtesy of a second half brace by Carlos Vela to secure Sociedad’s spot and status as a dark horse in the Champions League.
Finally the drama kicked in with Celtic taking on Shakhtar Karagandy in the day’s most fascinating tie. The Kazakhstani side looked to go further than any other club in the history of the nation by making the group stage while Celtic needed to shake off a shock 2-0 deficit from the away leg where Karagandy used their home support to stun the Scottish Champions. Celtic needed goals (at least 2) and found their first just before halftime through Kris Commons. It didn’t take them long to find the second one either with Greece international Georgio Samaras firing Celtic into a position to force ET. The match seemed destined for that fate as well, but James Forrest had other plans and his miracle 90th+2 minute goal sent the Scots into the Champions League yet again while the Kazaks stood on in utter disbelief.
So to recap, advancing to the Champions League are the following: Zenit, AC Milan, Viktoria Plzen, Real Sociedad, and Celtic.