Europa League round-up: Birmingham shine on terrible night for Scots

 

Birmingham City and Fulham moved through to the group stage of the Europa League yesterday, on the night when Rangers and Celtic joined Hearts out of all European competition for the year.

While the three Scottish teams lost over two legs, all four English clubs have now progressed to the tournament proper. There was a more surprising win, though, for Shamrock Rovers, who won 2-1 at Partizan Belgrade after extra time, progressing 3-2 on aggregate. The tie was set for penalties before Stephen Rice's 113th-minute spot-kick.

Birmingham were the most emphatic victors, beating the Portuguese side Nacional 3-0 at St Andrew's. Having drawn 0-0 in Portugal, the Carling Cup winners had to be careful of conceding an away goal. But two first-half goals dragged the tie in their favour, as Nathan Redmond struck home from distance after 15 minutes. Nine minutes later, David Murphy doubled the lead. The third came, with the match won, as Chris Wood tapped in with four minutes left.

Fulham also progressed, although they were beaten 1-0 over 90 minutes last night. After a 3-0 win over Dnipro at Craven Cottage in the first leg, they went to Ukraine as comfortable favourites. Evgeny Shakov made the aggregate score 3-1, but despite pressure Fulham held out.

There was no such success north of the border, though. While Hearts failed to recover a heavy deficit to Spurs, both Old Firm teams went out. Rangers, hosting Slovenian side Maribor, had to turn over a 2-1 deficit from the first leg. After a goalless first-half, the visitors took the lead when Dalibor Volas beat Allan McGregor. Rangers needed two just to take the game to extra time, and while Carlos Bocanegra scored one they could not find another.

Celtic went to FC Sion in Switzerland having drawn the first leg 0-0. Just three minutes in Daniel Majstorovic was sent off for a foul in the box, with Pascal Feinduono scoring the penalty. Feinduono scored his second, and after Charlie Mulgrew pulled one back, Giovanni Sio killed the tie with eight minutes remaining.

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