New Stuttgart head coach Bruno Labbadia enjoyed a perfect Europa League start as his team thrashed opponents Odense 5-1. Bayer Leverkusen drew against title holders Atletico, with both German sides progressing.
Stuttgart again put their domestic woes to one side in Europe
There was a dream start for new Stuttgart head coach Bruno Labbadia, his players notching up five goals in their Europa League soccer clash at home to Danish club Odense BK on Thursday.
Timo Gebhart grabbed the first for Stuttgart - who are already through to the next stage of the competition - on 20 minutes, scoring when his own header was chested back to his feet by Odense defender Anders Moller Christensen.
The second came in the form of a mistake from Odense defender Daniel Hoegh, who accidentally stabbed a cross by Gebhart into his own team's net. Christian Gentner was quickest to the ball after it hit defender Thomas Helveg, to make it 3-0 before Pavel Pogrebnyak made it 4-0 five minutes later.
That goal left spectators bewildered as the ball, which appeared to have been blocked by Moller Christensen, somehow found its way across the line through backspin.
Although fortune smiled briefly on Odense two minutes later, when John Utaka maintained his composure in front of goal to net a neat consolation, there was more in Stuttgart's armory when Ciprian Marica fired in a goal in during extra time to make the final score 5-1.
Stuttgart go through as leaders of their group on 15 points, six points ahead of second place Young Boys from Switzerland.
Leverkusen draw, holders go out
Atletico made every effort but were ultimately denied
In other Europa League football action, Bayer Leverkusen secured a 1-1 draw against Europa League title holders Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, sending the Spanish side out of the competition.
Atletico needed a win against Leverkusen - who had already qualified - and needed other results to go in their favor to progress.
The Spanish side did dominate the first half of the game with Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan coming close with a half-volley just ahead of the break.
Despite this, Leverkusen soaked up the pressure and it was the Germans who scored first - after a full 69 minutes - Patrick Helmes slotting the ball past Atletico goalkeeper David de Gea.
Although Atletico responded quickly, with a side-footed goal from Fran Merida just three minutes later, the Spaniards were unable to take the lead.
In any case, a victory would not have helped Atletico. Greek side Aris Salonika secured a win that ensured they finished in second place behind group leaders Leverkusen.
Author: Richard Connor (dpa, sid)
Editor: Chuck Penfold