5 of the remaining 10 Champions League spots were filled today with 5 teams from around Europe securing their place in the group stage. As previously written on earlier today, Arsenal were the team that advanced by the biggest margin, easily cruising past Fenerbahce of Turkey 5-0 on aggregate with the Gunners’ 3-0 away win pretty much ending the tie after just 1 leg.
The second largest margin went to FC Basel of Switzerland who defeated Ludoorets of Bulgaria by 6 goals to 2 after crushing them in the away leg 4-2 before comfortably beating them 2-0 today behind goals from Fabian Frei and a late header from Philipp Degen (who coincidentally has a bother named David also in the squad).
A more tense and nerve-racking second leg occurred in Greece where PAOK hosted Schalke 04 of Germany after drawing them 1-1 in the first leg. PAOK were also going to be at a slight disadvantage in this match as they are currently serving a UEFA ban on fans after an incident a couple years ago in European play. Schalke took advantage of the mainly empty stadium and got off to a 1-0 lead right before the half. PAOK answered back quickly and the tie looked to be slipping away from Schalke after US international Jermaine Jones was red carded in the 64th. The German side stunned just about everyone though and took the lead yet again through Julian Draxler 3 minutes later. PAOK now needed 2 goals to advance and got one back in the 79th, but a late Adam Szalai goal sealed the deal and sent the Germans on to the group stage.
Next we head to Vienna, Austria where the local side took on Dinamo Zagreb in a fascinating second leg. Vienna had pulled the upset back in Croatia and took a 2-0 lead into their home stadium with Zagreb needing a 2-0 win at minimum to force ET. It didn’t get off to a good start for them with some sloppy defending gifting Vienna a 1-0 lead on 5 minutes. Zagreb then went on a tear, scoring 3 straight goals in the 33rd, 43rd, and 70th minutes to put them in position to advance on away goals. The Croatians could not hold their lead though and a dramatic 82nd minute goal gave Austria Vienna the all-important ticket to the Champions league, while Zagreb looked on in despair.
The final match took place in Poland with Legia hosting Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti. The two sides achieved a 1-1 draw in the first lef back in Bucharest, which perfectly set up the Polish side to advance at home. Steaua wrecked those plans though with 2 goals in the first 9 minutes to take the lead in not only the game, but also on away goals now requiring Legia to win 3-2. The home side appeared to be on the comeback trail after getting a goal back in the 27th, but the well then went dry and they could not find the net again until stoppage time of the match. By that time it was far too late and Steaua miraculously secured a CL spot with a wonderful 2-2 away draw.
So to recap, Arsenal, FC Basel, Schalke 04, Austria Vienna, and Steaua Bucuresti all advanced with the final 5 spots up for grabs tomorrow.