Villa crash out; Everton, Fulham progress
PARIS: Aston Villa crashed out of the Europa League on Thursday losing a play-off tie to unheralded Rapid Vienna just three days after handing mighty Liverpool a humbling Premier League defeat.
In their second leg tie, Martin O'Neill's team were undone by striker Nikica Jelavic grabbing a crucial away goal 14 minutes from time. A James Milner penalty and a second-half strike from John Carew had handed Villa a 2-1 aggregate lead. But Jelavic had the final say.
Villa's English Premier League rivals Everton and Fulham survived testing trips to reach the group stages. Everton drew 1-1 with Sigma Olomouc for a 5-1 aggregate win. Fulham went down 1-0 to Amkar Perm but the Londoners still secured a 3-2 aggregate victory.
Zenit St Petersburg, the 2008 UEFA Cup champions, were knocked out by Portuguese side Nacional. The Russians had trailed 4-3 from the first leg but looked to be on course for the next stage when Fatih Tekke gave them a 34th-minute lead to level the tie on aggregate, and a key advantage in terms of away goals. However, with just a minute left to play, Ruben Micael scored to put the Portuguese side through.
Russia's woes continued when Dinamo Moscow lost 2-1 at home to CSKA Sofia having held the Bulgarians to a 0-0 draw in the first leg. Former England manager Steve McClaren saw his Twente side draw 0-0 at Qarabag in Baku for a 3-1 aggregate win, while fellow Dutch contenders Ajax won 2-1 at Slovan Bratislava for a 7-1 aggregate victory.
Two of the tournament favourites cruised into the next stage. Francesco Totti scored a hat-trick as AS Roma crushed MFK Kosice of Slovakia 7-1 for a 10-4 aggregate, while Spain's Villarreal defeated NAC Breda of the Netherlands 6-1 for a 9-2 win over two legs.
The 38 play-off winners will be joined by the 10 teams defeated in the Champions League play-off round. They will be split into 12 groups of four teams each.