AC Sparta Praha twice came from behind to draw with nine-men US Città di Palermo and advance from UEFA Europa League Group F.
The result consolidated Jozef Chovanec's side's four-point advantage over Palermo, thus ending the Italian team's campaign. Second-half strikes from Jiří Kladrubský and Juraj Kucka – cancelling out goals from Nicola Rigoni and Mauricio Pinilla respectively – assured Sparta of their place in the round of 32. Their hosts ended with nine men following the dismissals of Dorin Goian and Javier Pastore.
It was a tentative start, however, with both sides struggling to gain a foothold in the match. The contest eventually came to life in the 23rd minute when Fabio Liverani's floated free-kick was only half cleared. The ball fell to Rigoni whose bullet of a shot found its way through a crowded penalty area and left Jaromír Blažek with no chance.
It was a half in which Sparta struggled to create any clear openings, often relying on set pieces to pressure the Palermo defence. Five minutes into the second period, though, Wilfried Bony robbed Goian of possession, before being brought down in the penalty area by the defender, who received his second yellow card.
The resulting spot kick was confidently converted by Kladrubský, despite Francesco Benussi guessing correctly. Eight minutes later, Palermo were awarded a penalty of their own, Pinilla powering in to put his side back in the ascendancy.
Kamil Vacek then crossed for Kucka – who rose majestically at the back post to guide his header past Benussi – to restore parity once again with 28 minutes still remaining. It was a subdued close, however, Fabrizio Miccoli going closest with an effort which whistled just wide. Palermo's misery was complete when Pastore was dismissed for a second yellow card in added time.
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