DAVID SMITH - Friday, November 4, 2011
Clint Dempsey and Fulham scored a huge win over Wisla Krakow to stay in the knockout-round race while Jonathan Spector and Birmingham battled back for a home draw against Brugge.
Austria Vienna 2 - 2 AZ Alkmaar
Jozy Altidore played 87 minutes for AZ Alkmaar on Thursday, as they took an important point on the road against Austria Vienna that kept them on pace for qualification to the knockout round.
Alkmaar looked well on their way to an easy three points, building a two-goal lead before the halftime whistle.
Rasmus Elm slotted from the spot in the 19th minute after Vienna defender Georg Margreitter was called for a handball in the area, then was the catalyst for their second goal just before the break as his corner was headed in by Pontus Wernbloom.
Vienna were somewhat fortunate to pull one back in the 58th minute when a point-blank shot from Roland Linz was parried by Esteban Alvarado directly into the path of Manuel Ortlechner.
They needed only another three minutes to rescue the draw, again with luck on their side, as Alvarado couldn't hang onto a blast from Tomas Jun, with Nacer Barazite rushing in to clean up the loose ball with hard shot for the final 2-2 score.
AZ are second in Group G, one point ahead of Vienna. They visit bottom team Malmö on November 30, however first will continue their impressive Eredivisie campaign with a visit from ADO Den Haag on Sunday.
Birmingham City FC 2 - 2 FC Brugge
Jonathan Spector played the full 90 minutes in Birmingham's defense on Thursday, as a clawed back from a two-goal deficit to earn a point at home against Belgian team Brugge.
The Belgians were in front after 39 minute when a corner from Victor Vazquez was controlled by Thomas Meunier with his thigh before he scored from short range for 1-0.
Five minutes later, the visitors looked to have wrapped up the victory, netting a second time as a counter-attack ended with Vazquez feeding Joseph Akpala in the area for an easy tap-in.
Birmingham took one back ten minutes after the break as a shot from Nikola Zigic was initially blocked by Brugge keeper Vladan Kujovic, but was picked up and blasted into goal by Jean Beausejour.
With 16 minutes remaining the Blues completed the come-back, as Marlon King pulled them even from the spot after Beausejour was felled in the area by Ryan Donk, earning the point.
The result leaves the Blues, Brugge and Braga in a three-way tie atop Group H all on seven points. They next face a tough visit to Braga for their fifth group game on November 30. Beforehand, they return to their disappointing league campaign, where they will visit Reading on Sunday.
FC Fulham 4 - 1 Wisla Krakow
Clint Dempsey and Fulham put themselves within one game of qualification to the knockout round on Thursday, taking all the points against visiting Wisla Krakow in a blow-out win.
Fulham were dominant from start to finish, and took the lead after five minutes when Andy Johnson stormed up the right side and fired in a cross which Ireland international Damien Duff had no problems to redirect over the line.
Krakow did temporarily pull even four minutes later when Andraz Kirm's shot went in after taking a deflection off of John Arne Riise, however the Cottgers regained the lead for good at the half-hour, as Johnson struck with a fantastic volley for 2-1.
Johnson was again on the scoring sheet, getting the third touch on a cheeky free kick attempt in the 57th minute, which he made easy work of for 3-1, then Steven Sidwell added the team's fourth goal with 11 minutes remaining, first having his header blocked by Sergei Pareiko, but jumping on the rebound to slot from close range.
Fulham are second in Group K with seven points, three behind Twente and four ahead of both Odense and Krakow. A win in their December 1 trip to Twente will see them through to the final 32. In the immediate future, they will try to build momentum in their Premier League campaign when they host Tottenham on Sunday.
RSC Anderlecht 3 - 0 Sturm Graz
Sacha Kljestan played the full 90 minutes in the Anderlecht midfield on Thursday, as they assured their passage through to the knockout round with a shut-out win over visiting Sturm Graz.
Anderlecht needed 24 minutes to open the scoring with the only goal of the first half, as Matias Suarez fired in a cross to the middle of the area which Guillaume Gillet put away with ease.
Any hopes the Austrians had of mounting a comeback were severely dented just before the hour mark as Ferdinand Feldhofer was shown a second yellow, then Suarez wrapped up with win in the 74th minute, heading in a cross from Marcin Wasilewski.
Tom de Sutter added one more for good measure with nine minutes left, hitting the lower right corner from the edge of the penalty box for the final 3-0 score.
With a competition's best perfect record from four games they are through to the round of 32, and will next already-eliminated visit Greek team AEK Athens on December 1. They are also atop the Jupiler standings in domestic play, and face a tough visit to Cercle Brugge on Sunday.
Steve Cherundolo watched from the bench as Hannover solidified their hold on second place in Group B with come-from-behind 2-1 win at Danish powerhouse FC Copenhagen. They can qualify for the knockout round on November 30 with a win or draw on their trip to group leaders Standard Liege.
Oguchi Onyewu didn't make it off the bench as Sporting fell in Romania to FC Vaslui by a 1-0 score on Thursday. With a four-point lead atop Group D, they have qualified for the knockout round, and can clinch the top spot on December 1 with a win at home against Zürich.
Schalke defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones was given a rest ahead of a tough weekend Bundesliga encounter, and did not suit up for the Königsblauen on Thursday for their scoreless draw at home with AEK Larnaka. They sit alone atop Group J, and will next host Steaua Bucharest on December 1.
Celtic third-string keeper Dominic Cervi did not suit up for his team in their 3-1 win against visiting Rennes on Thursday, their first three-point haul of the competition.
Brad Friedel was not in uniform on Thursday for Tottenham's 1-0 loss on the road to Rubin Kazan. They are third place in a tight Group A, trailing Rubin by goal differential.