LONDON (AP) Zenit St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow were among four teams to clinch their places in the knockout stages of the Europa League on Thursday, continuing Russia’s strong recent showings in Europe’s second-tier club competition.
Zenit, which won the tournament in 2008 when it was called the UEFA Cup, survived a late fightback to win 3-2 at Hajduk Split, while 2005 winner CSKA scored three times in eight second-half minutes to beat Italy’s Palermo 3-1.
Belarusian champion BATE Borisov beat Sheriff of Moldova 3-1 to advance for the first time, while Stuttgart went through after a 3-0 win at Getafe.
Tiago’s spectacular late goal gave defending champion Atletico Madrid a 2-1 win at Rosenborg and Liverpool beat Napoli 3-1, but Sporting Lisbon and Manchester City each missed a chance to advance when they lost 3-1 away from home.
Sporting lost captain Abel to a 77th-minute red card and then conceded twice to lose at Belgium’s Ghent, while Manuel Arboleda and Mateusz Mozdzen scored in the last four minutes to give Lech Poznan victory over City in coach Jose Maria Bakero’s first match in charge of the Polish side.
“At the moment everything is against us,” City manager Roberto Mancini said. “We have 20 good players but sometimes you can lose a game you do not deserve to lose.”
Aleksei Ionov put Zenit ahead in the 32nd in Croatia before Szabolcs Huszti and Alessandro Rosina stretched the lead with penalty kicks. Huszti scored first time in the 47th but Rosina needed a rebound from goalkeeper Danijel Subasic’s save four minutes later.
Marin Ljubicic and Ante Vukusic scored to make it uncomfortable for Zenit, but the Russian side leads Group G with a maximum 12 points — eight clear of AEK Athens and Anderlecht, who drew 1-1.
CSKA trailed to a 10th-minute goal by Massimo Maccarone but kept up its 100 percent Group F record to secure a place among this season’s last 32 teams.
Palermo’s Antonio Nocerino was sent off for a second yellow card in the 31st and Keisuke Honda equalized 16 minutes later. Tomas Necid then struck twice in five minutes, his second goal coming from a turn and shot that went in off the post.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard went on as a substitute and scored a hat trick in the last 15 minutes to give his team a third straight win for the first time in almost 14 months.
Gerrard equalized Ezequiel Lavezzi’s early goal in the 76th, scored an 88th-minute penalty and then lifted the ball over the goalkeeper from Lucas Leiva’s pass.
Liverpool has eight points, three more than Steaua Bucharest and five more than Napoli and Utrecht.
“We showed an awful lot of character and determination in the second half,” Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson said. “It took some Steven Gerrard magic, and courage and determination, which I thought epitomized our second-half performance.”
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