BERLIN – Former champions Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt clinched their place in the Europa League knock-out rounds on Thursday.
They will be joined in the last 32 by Arsenal, Lazio, Zurich and Dinamo Zagreb while past winners Anderlecht and last season’s runners-up Olympique Marseille were among teams eliminated with two games to spare.
Olivier Giroud’s 53rd minute header gave the 2013 winners Chelsea a 1-0 win at BATE Borisov in Belarus. The hosts were unlucky when Dmitri Baga was denied by the post early on.
Chelsea top Group L with a maximum 12 points but are not yet fully assured of winning the group because Hungary’s Vidi beat Greek side PAOK 1-0 in the other game.
“The best thing about this evening was the result. It wasn’t easy to play a good game here,” Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said.
“I think the first target in this competition was to qualify and now the second target is to win our group.”
Arsenal are through from Group E despite being held 0-0 at home by Sporting Lisbon in a game which saw England player Danny Welbeck suffering a seemingly grave right-leg injury in the first half. His replacement Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hit the side-netting and Sporting had Jeremy Mathieu dismissed.
The Gunners are nonetheless assured of at least second place with 10 points, with Sporting three points behind, because Qarabag beat Vorskla 1-0 in the other game.
“We had a lot of possession. It’s disappointing not to score as we wanted to guarantee top spot,” Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech told BT Sport.
“Danny’s looked like a serious injury which is not nice to see and our thoughts are with him,” he added.
Frankfurt and Lazio qualified from Group H, with Lazio beating Marseille 2-1 and the 1980 champions Frankfurt prevailing 3-2 in Cyprus at Apollon Limassol.
Marco Parolo headed Lazio ahead on the stroke of half-time and Luis Adriano made it 2-0 in the 58th. OM were on target from Florian Thauvin.
Frankfurt led early from Luka Jovic before Mijat Gazinovic set up Sebastien Haller for the second in the 55th and then scored the third himself from the edge of the area. Emilio Zelaya struck twice for the hosts but Frankfurtt survived, despite a late sending off of Marc Stendera.
The Germans are top with a maximum 12 points, Lazio have nine while OM and Apollon are out with one point each.
“We managed to convert our first match point. That makes me very happy. Compliments to the team,” Frankfurt coach Adi Huetter said.
Group B is also settled, with Leverkusen and Zurich qualified on nine points each because Ludogorets and Larnaca drew 0-0 and have two each. The 1988 winners Leverkusen beat Zurich 1-0 from Tin Jedvaj’s second-half header.
Zagreb have a maximum 12 points like Chelsea and Frankfurt as they qualified from Group D from a 3-1 in foggy conditions over Slovakia’s Trnava.
The 2018 semi-finalists Salzburg also have full points in Gropup B but the Austrians are not through yet despite a 5-2 win at Norway’s Rosenborg, with the help of a first-half hat-trick from Takumi Minamino.
That is because Celtic beat RB Leipzig 2-1 from Odsonne Edouard’s winner seconds after Leipzig’s equalizer in rainy Glasgow, with both sides on six points.
In other action, record five-time winners Sevilla squandered a two-goal lead before edging Turkey’s Akhisar 3-2 with 10 men in tight Group I, Ever Banega converting a late penalty even though Sergi Gomez was setn off.
Sevilla are top of the group with nine points along with Krasnodar who beat Standard Liege (six) 2-1.
Group G saw a remarkable game in Moscow where Spartak came from behind three times to beat Steven Gerrard’s Rangers 4-3. Luiz Adriano in the 58th and Sofiane Hanni a minute later gave the hosts victory. Villarreal lead the tight group with six points from a 0-0 at Rapid Vienna, Spartak and Rangers have five each and Rapid four.
As wide open is Group F where Real Betis drew 1-1 with AC Milan and Olympiacos thrashed Luxembourg’s Dudelange 5-1, leaving Betis first on eight points and Olympiacos and Milan on seven each.
The 2008 champions Zenit St Petersburg are top of Group C from a 1-1 at Girondins Bordeaux; Belgium’s Genk lead the way in Group I despite also drawing 1-1 with Besiktas; and Group K has joint leaders in Dynamo Kiev and Astana. -DPA