Press Association · Columnist
Rangers are out of the Europa League after Steven Gerrard’s side lost to Rapid Vienna. Get all the key news from Thursday’s games.
Rangers wave goodbye
Rangers’ dreams of reaching the Europa League last 32 were extinguished as they failed to get the victory they needed edge out Rapid Vienna.
Victory in the Austrian capital would have extended the Ibrox side’s remarkable run beyond Christmas.
But there was no fairy-tale ending for the team Steven Gerrard put together back in the summer as Dejan Ljubicic’s late winner sealed a 1-0 win at the Allianz Stadion as the hosts joined Villarreal in qualifying from Group G.
A campaign that started in the second week of July and involved four qualifiers had pushed Gerrard’s squad to the limits.
They were without three key men – the injured Ryan Kent, suspended Daniel Candeias and ‘unsettled’ Ovie Ejaria – and a lack of cutting edge in the final third was their undoing against Dietmar Kuhbauer’s ordinary Rapid outfit.
They did have one big chance midway through the opening half when Connor Goldson’s header hit the crossbar but more was needed to stop the Green-Whites securing their slot in Monday’s draw for the round of 32.
Chelsea avoid upset
Substitute Olivier Giroud saved Chelsea from an embarrassing loss at Vidi.
Willian’s free-kick after 30 minutes was cancelled out immediately by an Ethan Ampadu own goal and Loic Nego struck a sumptuous volley after 56 minutes to give Vidi the lead.
But Giroud’s fine free-kick 15 minutes from time earned a 2-2 draw in a match of little consequence for the Blues, who had already qualified for the last 32 as Group L winners. Vidi finished third, as BATE Borisov joined Chelsea in the knockout stages.
Chelsea, who play at Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday, made 10 changes, with Willian the only player to retain his starting place following last Saturday’s 2-0 win over Manchester City.
Belarusian champions BATE Borisov join Maurizio Sarri’s side in the last 32 after two goals from Nikolai Signevich – who was later sent off – helped them beat Greek club PAOK Salonika 3-1.
Koscielny returns in Arsenal win
Unai Emery’s big guns secured Arsenal’s victory over Qarabag in their Europa League dead rubber as captain Laurent Koscielny came through his return from injury unscathed.
Alexandre Lacazette was a surprise inclusion but grabbed the only goal of the game after latching on to Mesut Ozil’s pass – the German also a standout name in a largely experimental line-up which laboured to a 1-0 win.
Arsenal were already assured of top spot in Group E and a sparse crowd at the Emirates Stadium watched a lifeless encounter, with Emery’s side showing no less than nine changes from the team that beat Huddersfield 1-0 at the weekend.
Koscielny had not played for the Gunners since rupturing his Achilles in May but the 33-year-old came through 70 minutes – albeit without a real test of his fitness – and now looks set to feature against Southampton on Sunday to ease Emery’s defensive crisis.
Arsenal will be without the injured Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos while Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Shkodran Mustafi are suspended, meaning the visitors are likely to field an unfamiliar backline at St Mary’s.
Celtic scrape through
Celtic dramatically won through to the knockout stage of the Europa League despite a 2-1 defeat by Salzburg at Parkhead.
The Hoops needed only a point to make sure they joined the already-qualified Austrian outfit in the last 32 but were subdued in the first half as the classy visitors struck the woodwork amid several chances.
Israel striker Munas Dabbur, who scored twice in the 3-1 win over the Scottish champions in October, headed the visitors in front in the 66th minute before substitute Frederik Gulbrandsen capitalised on a horror mistake by goalkeeper Craig Gordon in the 78th minute to make it 2-0.
Salzburg defender Jerome Onguene fouled Celtic defender Filip Benkovic in the box in added time for substitute Olivier Ntcham to score from the penalty at the second attempt, but RB Leipzig’s unlikely 1-1 draw with bottom side Rosenborg meant Brendan Rodgers’ men held on to second spot in Group B.
More from across Europe
Elsewhere, a brace from Wissam Ben Yedder and Ever Banega’s penalty saw five-time champions Sevilla defeat 10-man Krasnodar 3-0 to clinch top spot in Group J.
Russian side Krasnodar progress as runners-up after Standard Liege could only manage a goalless draw against Akhisar Belediyespor in Turkey.
Group H winners Eintracht Frankfurt made it six wins from as many games by coming from behind to beat Lazio 2-1 in Rome.
The Italians, already confirmed as runners-up, went ahead through Joaquin Correa, before quick-fire strikes from Mijat Gacinovic and Sebastien Haller earned the German club victory.
French giants Marseille finished bottom of that group with a solitary point after they had Boubacar Kamara and Lucas Ocampos sent off in a 3-1 home loss to Cypriot side Apollon Limassol.
In Group I, Malmo won 1-0 at 10-man Besiktas to take second spot and eliminate the Turkish club, with Belgian side Genk topping the group after thrashing Norwegian club Sarpsborg 4-0.
Also on Thursday, Rennes beat Astana to the runners-up slot in Group K with a 2-0 victory in France, with Dynamo Kiev finishing first despite a 1-0 home defeat to Czech side Jablonec.
The draw for the last 32 of the tournament takes place on Monday in Switzerland. Inter Milan, Napoli, Valencia and Benfica are among the teams set to join the competition having been eliminated from the Champions League.