FC Steaua Bucureşti clinched second spot in UEFA Europa League Group J and a place in the round of 32 thanks to their 3-1 victory against AEK Larnaca FC and Maccabi Haifa FC's 3-0 defeat by section winners FC Schalke 04.
Steaua and AEK Larnaca were level on five points prior to kick-off and knew only victory would enable them to capitalise on any slip-up by the Israeli side. After a goalless first half the game sprung into life ten minutes after the break when Raul Rusescu converted from the penalty spot to give Steaua the lead. The visitors swiftly hit back through Gorka Pintado but Steaua sealed their place thanks to Stefan Nikolić's double.
Steaua, roared on by a vocal home crowd, tested Alexandre Negri from distance early on but it was AEK Larnaca who looked the more dangerous in a quiet first half. Gonzalo García's cross from the left was headed wide by Pintado at the front post before Steaua's Cristian Tănase's superb volley was tipped over by Negri. Kevin Hofland's curling free-kick was well saved down to his right by Ciprian Tătăruşanu in the Steaua goal to ensure it remained goalless at the break.
The hosts came out firing in the second half and made the breakthrough on 55 minutes when Nikolić was brought down by Ander Murillo; Rusescu sent Negri the wrong way from the spot. However, the Cypriot outfit did not lie down and equalised just six minutes later when Pintado stooped to powerfully head Jason Demetriou's cross past Tătăruşanu.
Ilie Stan's side were not to be denied, though. Tănase was thwarted by Negri but from Pablo Brandán's corner Nikolić climbed highest to head Steaua back in front. He grabbed his second five minutes from time to wrap up his team's progress.
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.