Europa Conference League Recap: Vines and Antwerp Last Survivors in Qualification

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Sam Vines was the only American on the field in Europa Conference League qualification to see his team advance to the next round, with Kyle McLagan, Christian Cappis and Kenny Saief all having their hearts broken in extra time.

Royal Antwerp 2 – 0 Lillestrøm (agg. 5-1)

Sam Vines and Royal Antwerp had no problem to overcome Norwegians Lillestrøm on Thursday night, adding another pair of goals to their first-leg advantage to put themselves on the edge of a group-stage berth.

As in the first leg, Vines played the full game at left back, as Antwerp dominated possession and were really never in danger of having the 3-1 first-leg advantage overturned.

In his debut game for the hosts, Ecuadorian midfielder Anthony Valencia made the dream start to his Belgian career, receiving a clever through-ball from Radja Nainggolan and striking home from a tight angle for the 1-0 lead on the night, and 4-1 aggregate advantage.

Shortly after, he nearly headed in a cross from Vines, hitting it just wide.

Then with 20 minutes remaining in regulation, Birger Verstraete made it two for the night for the Great Old, putting away the rebound after Vincent Janssen’s initial shot was blocked.

The result means that Vines and his teammates will face Turkish team İstanbul Başakşehir in the play-off round. The first leg is set to take place in Turkey’s capital on Thursday, with the return leg in Antwerp one week later.

Lech Poznań 4 – 1 Víkingur Reykjavík (agg. 4-2)

Kyle McLagan and Vikingur staged a remarkable come-back to force overtime against Lech Poznań on Thursday, however they ran out of steam in the extra period to see their European adventure finally come to an end.

A strong first leg saw the Vikings build a narrow 1-0 advantage at home, however they knew their backs would be against the wall in the return leg in Poland. McLagan once again lined up in the center of the defense, playing all 120 minutes.

In a wide-open early phase, both teams have several close calls. However, the hosts finally struck first in the 32nd minute after Kristoffer Velde drove to the endline and sent a cross back towards the penalty spot, where Mikael Ishak put away with a sweeping right-footed strike.

Velde then put Poznań ahead on aggregate in the 44th minute, running into the right of the area to poke in Joel Pereira’s cross from deep in the left flank.

The hosts stayed on the front foot after the break and had several chances to increase their lead narrowly go awry, but still looked headed to the win as the final seconds ticked away.

However, the Vikings had one final act to play in the final, desperate moments of added time. Erlingur Agnarsson cut in behind his marking defender on the right side to receive a through ball with space to work. He took a few steps before hitting a centering pass to Danijel Djuric for a lunging finish at the far post, sending the game into 30 minutes of added time.

Unfortunately, the visitors’ joy was short-lived, as Filip Marchwinski struck from distance in the sixth minute of overtime to deal the death-blow to the visitors.

14 minutes later it went from bad to worse for Vikingur; Julius Magnusson sent off for a reckless and needless lunge in the midfield, then they conceded a penalty in the 117th minute after David Atlason handled a shot from Afonso Sousa.

While Sousa did see his weakly hit spot kick saved, he made up for it seconds later when he received Filip Szymczak’s cross in front of goal, rounded the keeper and hit his low shot to secure the final 4-2 aggregate.

The loss eliminates Vikingur from European competition for the season, leaving them to return to domestic matters. They are currently second in the Icelandic top division with six games left in the regular season, and have the domestic cup quarterfinal on Thursday.

Basel 2 – 1 Brøndby (agg. 2-2, Basel win 3-1 on penalties)

Christian Cappis and Brøndby saw their hopes of further European competition end with heartbreak, as they were eliminated on penalties by Basel on Thursday night.

Cappis started the game in the team’s central midfield, however was pulled at halftime after picking up an early yellow card.

Basel brought theselves even on aggregate after early substitute Henrik Heggheim pushed over Liam Millar in the area, with Fabrian Frei striking a picture-perfect shot from the spot to the upper right corner.

Mathias Kvistgaarden put Brøndby back into the aggregate lead in the first minute of first-half added time, striking a low shot from ten yards to the lower right corner.

However, the Danes barely had time to celebrate before Andi Zeqiri put the tie back on even terms with a looping header from near the spot four minutes later, although most of the credit was due to Liam Millar for his excellent work on the set-up.

Cappis left the game at halftime in favor of the more attack-minded Peter Bjur, in a move that would eventually have grave consequences.

After neither team could break through during the second half or in the 30 minutes of extra time, the game went to penalties. After Brøndby missed their first two attempts compared to Basel’s two successful conversions, the result was inevitable. However, the shoot-out ended when Bjur’s attempt, Brøndby’s fourth, was easily saved by the Basel keeper.

The Danes can now focus fully on their recently started domestic campaign, where they are in ninth place after four games, and set to face Odense on Sunday.

AZ Alkmaar 7 – 0 Dundee United (agg. 7-1)

Ian Harkes played the full game for Dundee United on Thursday night, as they suffered their most painful European night with a seven-goal loss in Alkmaar.

While United carried a one-goal lead into the game from the first leg, the tie was essentially lost from the opening whistle, as the Dutch team dominated from the get-go and scored five in the first half.

Their opener came in the 21st minute through Evangelos Pavlidis, then Tijani Reijnders added a second just past the half-hour. Pavlidis completed his brace in the 36th minute, Reijnders scored his second five minutes later, and Håkon Evjen added the team’s fifth just before the break.

While Unites somewhat slowed the bleeding after the break, they still conceded two more, one coming from Dani de Wit just after the players re-entered the field, and Alkmaar’s seventh in the 74th minute from substitute Mayckel Lahdo.

United’s short European adventure comes to an abrupt end, and they will focus on their domestic season, beginning with a visit to Hearts on Sunday.

Rapid Wien 2 – 0 Neftçi Baku (3-2)

Kenny Saief and Neftçi Baku were simply unable to get the job done in Vienna on Thursday night, with the team allowing a second-half equalizer and overtime winner to fall on aggregate to Rapid.

Saief played a total of 100 minutes on the right wing, and was unable to add to his scoring total in Baku’s short European run, which saw him net a pair of goals and assist on another over their first three games.

The Austrians evened the aggregate in the 66th minute, with Marco Grüll pulling down a long cross by Nicolas-Gerrit Kühn from the right flank to the far post, sliding in to one-time his shot through the keeper’s hands.

Neither team was able to break through in the last half-hour, and the game eventually went into overtime. Saief was pulled for midfielder Azer Aliev after 100 minutes.

In the 112th, disaster struck for the Azerbaijanis; Jonas Auer lofted a pass from deep left towards the edge of the six-yard box. Ferdy Druijf rose to get his head on it, with the ball slipping under the grip of the Baku keeper for the late winner.

Baku now turn their focus to the Azerbaijani domestic season, in which they play their second game on Sunday against FC Kapaz.


Rokas Pukštas was not in uniform for Hajduk Split’s 1-0 loss in Portugal to Vitória de Guimarães. The result still sees the Croatians through on a 3-2 aggregate, where they will face Spaniards Villarreal for a spot in the group stage.


David Smith

I'm YA's resident doctor, but not the kind of doctor you would want giving you an examination anywhere outside of a lecture hall. I've been YA's feet-on-the-ground in Germany since 2008, have an affinity for overly verbose descriptions of irrelevant minutiae, keep an eye on YAs in most of the destinations on mainland Europe, and watch a whole lot of Serie A.

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