The final 13 places in the Europa League group stage have been decided as the playoff round is now at an end.
Burnley’s Europa League campaign came to a finish as Sean Dyche‘s men were unable to overcome a first leg deficit, falling to Olympiakos on a 1-1 draw that led to a 4-2 aggregate scoreline. The Clarets put their best foot forward on Thursday, pounding the Greek side with eight shots in the first half, five more than they attempted all of the first leg. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to anything tangible, and despite each team bagging goals in the final five minutes, it wasn’t enough for Burnley to advance. A visitor was there to watch the action:
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is on a scouting mission ahead of Sunday's trip to Turf Moor, where Burnley are currently locked at 0-0 with Olympiakos with half-time approaching #MUFCpic.twitter.com/DeiHcJhhI0
Scottish giants Celtic left no doubt as they topped Lithuanian side FK Suduva 3-0 for a 4-1 aggregate decision. Leigh Griffiths, Callum McGregor, and Kristoffer Ajer all ended up on the scoresheet in the win.
Zenit St. Petersburg backed into the group stage despite a 2-1 road loss to Norwegian side Molde, leaning on their 3-1 first leg victory which propelled them to a 4-3 aggregate win. Daler Kuzyayev bagged the deciding goal in the 21st minute, and while Molde produced a spirited comeback, they fell a goal short.
German club RB Leipzig eeked through on a 3-1 win that gave them a 3-2 aggregate victory over Ukranian club Zorya Luhansk, with the winning goal coming on a penalty in the 90th minute. Emil Forsberg delivered the blow from the spot to send them through, overcoming a situation that would have seen them out on away goals following a 1-0 first leg loss in Ukraine.
Steven Gerrard‘s Rangers also barely squeaked through into the group stage after a 1-1 road draw at Russian club FC Ufa that gave them a 2-1 aggregate win. 20-year old Ovie Ejaria scored nine minutes in, but the end was incredibly nervy after Alfredo Morales and former Liverpool youngster Jon Flanagan were both sent off, leaving Rangers two men down for nearly the final half-hour.
Basel was bounced by Cypriot club Apollon Limassol on away goals after a 1-0 road loss in the second leg doomed them to a 3-3 aggregate. The Swiss club’s elimination is notable as it is the first time in a whopping 17 years that Basel has not reached the group stage of either the Champions League or the Europa League.
French side Bordeaux overcame a first-leg 0-0 draw to advance on a 2-0 home win over Belgian club KAA Gent. 22-year-old Francois Kamano scored the eventual decider in just the 10th minute, while Jimmy Briand added the insurance strike from the spot after the hour mark.
Other results (aggregate winner in bold)
Ludogorets Razgrad 4-0 Torpedo Kutaisi Qarabag 3-0 Sheriff Tiraspol CFR Cluj-Napoca 2-3 F91 Dudelange FC Astana 1-0 Apoel Nicosia (penalties)
FC Midtjylland 0-2 Malmo
FC Copenhagen 0-0 Atalanta (penalties) Besiktas 3-0 Partizan Belgrade
KF Shkëndija 0-2 Rosenborg
Bronby 2-4 Racing Genk FC Spartak Trnava 1-1 Olimpija Ljubljana
FCSB 2-1 Rapid Vienna AEK Larnaca 3-0 AS Trencin
Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-1 Sarpsborg FK
Out Dan Agyei (Blackpool) Loan
Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers) Loan
Jimmy Dunne (Accrington Stanley) Loan
Harry Flowers (Guiseley) Undisclosed
Josh Ginnelly (Tranmere Rovers) Loan
Luke Hendrie (Shrewsbury Town) Undisclosed
Alex Whitmore (Chesterfield) Undisclosed
In Ross Barkley (Everton) Undisclosed
Olivier Giroud (Arsenal) Undisclosed Emerson Palmieri (Roma) Undisclosed
Jack Boyle (Clyde) Loan
Dylan Cogill (Clyde) LoanFraser Horsfall (Kidderminster Harriers) Undisclosed
Danny Kane (Cork City) Undisclosed Joe Lolley (Nottingham Forest) Undisclosed
Jack Payne (Blackburn Rovers) Loan Ryan Schofield (AFC Telford) Loan
Tadhg Ryan (Released)
Cedwyn Scott (Dundee) Undisclosed
Out James Wilson (Sheffield United) Loan
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal) Swap
Alex Tuanzebe (Aston Villa) Loan
Matty Willock (St Johnstone) Loan
Charlie Scott (Hamilton Academical) Loan
Demi Mitchell (Hearts) Loan
Martin Dubravka (Sparta Prague) Loan
Kenedy (Chelsea) Loan Islam Slimani (Leicester City) Loan
Palace was on the front foot for the first five minutes, but Burnley found the opener when Ashley Barnes couldn’t redirect Stephen Ward‘s with his cross first touch but kept the ball at his feet long enough to score through Wayne Hennessey‘s legs.
The game was delayed when James Tarkowski was hit in the head with a projectile during the celebration, but was able to stay in the game.
Wilfried Zaha was wrongly ruled offside on a break which would’ve given a penalty to Palace had the flag not been raised before Tom Heaton took down Zaha.
Barnes had a second goal taken back for a handball after he settled the ball with his arm before beating Hennessey low.
The Clarets were tricky to break down. On one sequence after the half-hour mark, Burnley smothered space until Patrick Van Aanholt‘s shot from the left was blocked away from danger.
Luka Milivojević fired a prime shot wide of the frame in the 36th minute.
Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Burnley at Anfield (Watch live, 12 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Liverpool sit two points clear of fifth-place Arsenal (the Reds having played a game more already) with 11 games to go in the 2016-17 season. After a truly horrendous start to the 2017 calendar year (winless in their first five PL games) threatened to derail Liverpool’s chase for a second top-four finish in eight seasons, Klopp’s men bailed out the sinking ship with a pair of wins, over second-place Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal, in their last three league games.
Through the final day of 2016, no side in the PL had scored more goals (46 — four more than any other side) than the Reds, but it was their leaky defense (21 goals conceded — most of any side in the top-six at that time; they sat second ahead of New Years Day, six points back of runaway leaders Chelsea) which had already precluded them from a genuine title challenge.
“I don’t want to make it too philosophical — it is obviously the case we are inconsistent,” Klopp said this week. “I know we don’t have to doubt the attitude, and the kind of attitude we usually are looking for was here against Arsenal; they were really motivated and you cannot play like this if you have any issues.”
Burnley (31 points) are already more than three-quarters of the way to the magical 40-point mark which will all but guarantee their safety from relegation (as few as 36 points could result in a 17th-place finish this season), though Sean Dyche‘s Clarets are winless in their last four PL games (two draws).