Stuttgart win big in Romania, Leverkusen come up short | News | DW | 22.11.2012
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Stuttgart win big in Romania, Leverkusen come up short

Stuttgart put five past Europa League group leaders Steaua Bucaresti in Romania, while Borussia Mönchengladbach earned an important win of their own. Hannover and Bayer Leverkusen were less fortunate.

The result was never in doubt for Stuttgart, despite playing away to the Group E leaders Steaua Bucaresti. It was a big win for the visitors, who took another step towards qualifying into the knockout stage.

Stuttgart charged at the hosts from the start, with Serdar Tasci getting his side off the mark in the fifth minute when he headed in a Zdravko Kuzmanovic corner. The visitors never looked back.

Just over 10 minutes later Martin Harnik made it 2-0 with a header off a free kick, but it was Gotokui Sakai's 23rd-minute effort that was most impressive.

Shinji Okazaki took the ball and cut in from the left wing, laying it off to Sakai from the top of the box. His left-footed volley crashed into the top left corner of the net, and suddenly the hosts found themselves 3-0 down.

Not 10 minutes later, the two traded roles when Sakai's cross found a wide-open Okazaki in the box. His simple header easily beat keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, making it 4-0 with more than 15 minutes remaining in the half.

Steaua attempted to stop Stuttgart's offensive onslaught after the fourth goal, providing some offensive pressure of their own and managing to keep the visitors at bay until the break.

Wrapping up the victory

Shortly after the second half began, Okazaki capped his impressive performance by scoring a second goal in the 55th minute. The Japanese midfielder again found himself open in the box when a rebounded shot fell right at his feet. He could hardly do wrong as he tapped it in for a fifth goal.

With the game wrapped up, Stuttgart could afford to sit back. A late goal from Mihai Costea in the 83rd minute did little to change the result for Steaua, and Stuttgart walked away winners.

The victory means Stuttgart now sit in second place in Group E, still three points behind leaders Steau and one point above FC Copenhagen. They face last-place Molde at home in their final group-stage game on December 6.

De Camargo steals the show

Borussia Mönchengladbach fought for nearly 80 minutes against AEL Limassol without finding the back of the net. The hosts had hoped for an easier victory against the Cypriot side, who sit bottom of Group C with a solitary point.

Igor de Camargo of Moenchengladbach (L) scores the first goal against Dosa Junior of Limassol during the UEFA Europa League group C match between Borussia Moenchengladbach and AEL Limassol FC at Borussia Park Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Moenchengladbach, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

De Camargo's brace gave Gladbach the win

Limassol defended well for the majority of the match, keeping a talented Gladbach side at bay. But a red card to midfielder Luciano Bebe in the 75th minute left the visitors with just 10 men, opening up space for the Gladbach attack.

Substitute Igor de Camargo finally got his side on the scoreboard in the 79th minute after Havard Nordtveit played him through on goal. The Brazilian striker, who moments before had just narrowly missed scoring, sent a low ball from the right side of the box past keeper Matias Degra to make it 1-0.

De Camargo nabbed a second in the 91st minute, heading a Patrick Hermann cross into the far corner of the net. At 2-0 and just three minutes to play, Limassol had little hope of coming back.

Gladbach now sit second in their group with eight points, five behind leaders Fenerbahce. Marseille are in third, three points behind Gladbach, and but can still overtake the Germans, who play away to Fenerbahce in their final group game.

Disappointment in Ukraine

Bayer Leverkusen's hopes of winning their group were put on hold in the Europa League Thursday after falling 2-0 away to Metalist Kharkiv. The visitors put pressure on their Ukrainian opponents all night, but a shaky backline cost the Germans dearly.

Fininho (R) of FC Metalist Kharkiv fights for the ball with Junior Fernándes of Bayer 04 Leverkusen during a UEFA Europa League, Group K, football match in Kharkiv on November 22, 2012. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Junior Fernandes had several attempts, but finished scoreless

Both sides came out of the gate gunning, and it was Leverkusen that looked most likely to nab an early goal.

Chilean forward Junior Fernandes was determined to score for the visitors, and had his side's best chance of the half in the 36th minute when he outmuscled his marker and sent a blinding shot from close range straight at Aleksandr Goryainov. But the keeper got a fingertip on it, sending the ball just high enough deflect off the crossbar.

Just minutes later the hosts applied some pressure of their own, and it was Leverkusen's keeper Bernd Leno who came up big, somehow managing to parry a Metalist header from close range up over the crossbar and out of play.

Cristaldo decides it

It took a moment of brilliance in the second half from Metalist's Argentinian striker Cristaldo to break the deadlock. Just 30 seconds after the restart, Fininho played a long ball from the defense on towards the Leverkusen goal. In a full sprint, Cristaldo volleyed the ball across the keeper and into the net - a stunning goal to give his side a 1-0 lead.

As the second half continued, Leverkusen continued to seek their first goal, bringing on striker Stefan Kiessling in the 77th minute. But the Germany striker's introduction would prove futile when Cleiton Xavier doubled Metalist's lead in the 85th minute.

With the second goal the game was decided, and it finished 2-0. Despite the loss Leverkusen still sit atop their group with 10 points, ahead of Metalist on goal difference. They will hope to secure first place in Group K when they play at home to Rosenborg on December 6 in their final game.

Draw in Hanover

It was an uneventful first half for Hannover 96 in their Group L matchup with FC Twente Enschede. The hosts never really gave their Dutch visitors a scare despite Hungarian midfielder Szabolcs Huszti's best set piece efforts.

HANNOVER, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 22: Adrian Nikci (L) of Hannover and Joey Pelupessy of Hannover and x of Twente compete for the ball during the UEFA Europa League Group L match between Hannover 96 and FC Twente at AWD Arena on November 22, 2012 in Hannover, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Hannover looked flat against Twente

The mood in the stands - which were far from full - seemed to reflect the mood on the field in the first period of play: subdued.

After 60 minutes without a score, Hannover introduced striker Didier Ya Konan to play along side Artur Sobiech - a partnership that had brought them success in previous Europa League games.

In the 74th minute Ya Konan sent a header on goal that goalkeeper Sander Boschker managed to save. The hosts would have few better chances all game, despite a red card for Twente's Rasmus Bengsston in the 84th minute that reduced the side to 10 men.

It finished 0-0, but the point was good enough to assure hosts first place in their group, even with a 3-1 Levante win over Helsingborg. Hannover play away to the Spanish side on December 6 in a match that will surely decide who wins the group.