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Stuttgart advance to knockout stage despite loss

Stuttgart needed help to advance into the Europa League knockout stage, while Borussia Mönchengladbach breezed past Fenerbahce. Hannover thought they had a win against Levante, but late drama changed their plans.

A loss at home to Molde of Norway Thursday meant FC Copenhagen had to draw or lose for the German side to avoid elimination.

Stuttgart nearly went the entire first half without conceding a goal before Molde spoiled things for the hosts one minute into stoppage time. After a corner bounced out to Shinji Okazaki at the top of the box, the Japanese midfielder mishit a shot on goal that the Molde attack picked up.

On a quick counter, Martin Linnes played Davy Claude Angan (pictured above right) through on goal. The speedy Ivorian broke free of the Stuttgart defense but his first attempt was blocked by goalkeeper Sven Ulreich. Unfortunately for the hosts, the rebound fell straight to Angan, who easily tapped the ball into an open net, giving Molde a 1-0 lead just before the halftime break.

The hosts tried to find a way back into the game for the entire second half, nearly scoring on several occasions. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Molde side were unwilling to concede, and it finished 1-0.

The Norwegian side have proved to be too much for Stuttgart in this year's competition. Their only other win in the group stage came at home to the German team on October 4.

Stuttgart managed to squeak into the knockout stage despite Copenhagen's draw with Steaua Bucharest in the other Group C match. The result put the two sides level on points the group. Due to their better head-to-head record against Copenhagen, Stuttgart advanced.

Gladbach breeze to victory in Istanbul

Borussia Mönchengladbach trounced Fenerbahce 3-0 in Istanbul, but with both teams already having qualified for the knockout stage in Group C, the match had little meaning.

Gladbach got off the mark in the 22nd minute when Tolga Cigerci picked up a Peniel Mlapa pass and sent a right-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net from outside the box.

The visitors doubled their lead just six minutes later when Henri Bienvenu fouled Branimir Hrgota in the box. Mike Hanke stepped forward to take the penalty kick, and dispatched it confidently into the top left corner.

Luuk de Jong finished off the game in the 79th minute when he finished an Amin Younes cross in front of an empty net to make it 3-0. It was a positive return to action for the Dutch striker, who had only recently recovered from a long term injury.

In the end the win had no effect on the group standings, and Gladbach still finished second in the group.

Hannover secures group win

It was a battle for first place between Levante and Hannover 96. With the Spanish side sitting one point behind their German counterparts in Group L, the match was very much an important one despite both sides already assured advancement in the competition.

Hannover looked like the better team from the start in Valencia. Eighteen minutes in Lars Stindl played a short cross into the box to a cutting Didier Ya Konan. Bouncing off a Levante defender, the ball popped up on the right side of the box and a wide open Stindl put a shot from close range past Keylor Navas.

Just eight minutes later, Stindl again teamed up with Ya Konan, sending the striker through on goal down the center of the pitch. Ya Konan noticed Navas charging at him, and coolly chipped the ball over the Levante keeper and into the net.

The only bad news for the visitors in the first half was the early exit of Stindl, who had to leave the game in the 38th minute due to injury.

Shortly after the restart, it was the hosts who looked to score. A 46th minute Ruben Garcia attempt into the top right corner nearly put Levante on the scoreboard, but Ron-Robert Zieler did well to catch the shot.

Just two minutes later, Levante pulled one back when Vicente Iborra headed down a free kick into the path of Angel, who fired the ball past Zieler from close range.

The hosts continued to push the play for the remainder of the half, but it took until the third minute of stoppage time to draw level.

With time running out, Levante earned a corner, and it was Iborra sprinting into the box who got a head on the ball and directed it into the net.

The draw was not what Hannover wanted, but it meant they still finished first in the group and are a top seed heading into the knockout stage.

Leverkusen finish second

It was a labored win for Sammi Hyppiä's Bayer Leverkusen against Rosenborg, but having already guaranteed themselves second place in Group K, there was not quite as much to play for.

The first 45 minutes proved scoreless between the two sides, so Hyppiä brought on Simon Rolfes and Sidney Sam immediately after the break to try to energize the side.

It didn't take long for the plan to pay off. In the 47th minute Sam came up with Leverkusen's best chance up to that point when he sent a powerful left-footed shot just inches wide of the post.

In the 65th minute, the hosts went ahead when outside back Carlinhos sent a low pass into the box from the right wing. His defensive partner, Julian Riedel, dove out with his left foot and put the ball past Rosenborg's Alexander Lund Hansen.

Riedel's goal proved to be the only score of the evening, and it finished 1-0. The win meant Leverkusen finished group play with 13 points. Though they are even with Metalist Kharkiv, the Ukrainian side has the superior head to head record and thus top the group.

The draw for the Europa League Round of 32 takes place December 20, with the first leg to follow on February 14.