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R. Standard de Liège were victorious on the night against Hannover 96 – but both teams were able to celebrate moving through from UEFA Europa League Group B.
Success for either side would have guaranteed a round of 32 berth with a match to spare in any case, but although Hannover lost 2-0 in Belgium, they join Standard in the 16 December draw as group runners-up due to third-place FC København drawing 1-1 at already eliminated FC Vorskla Poltava. Now the players of both clubs can look forward to knockout football on 16 and 23 February.
Gohi Bi Cyriac bundled in Bia Mujangi's low shot on 59 minutes to seal Standard's win after Mohamed Tchite had opened the scoring, yet admitted: "I don't know if the ball had already gone in or not, but the most important thing for me was not to be caught offside and at the last moment I decided to touch the ball."
The group-clinching victory was Standard's fifth in a six-game unbeaten run, prompting 21-year-old striker Cyriac to add: "Our supporters saw that things are going well for us at the moment. I'm happy for them, but there are other games approaching and we have to stay focused."
Midfielder Mujangi was no less satisfied with the outcome, saying: "We didn't let them play their game and we also managed to score twice. It will do our confidence a lot of good to have beaten a very decent German side." As for the last-32 draw: "A smaller club would be just fine!"
Hannover, now on a five-match winless streak, rued the result despite no longer needing points at home to Vorskla Poltava in a fortnight to survive. "We had some chances in the first half but we didn't convert them," said visiting striker Jan Schlaudraff, who added that the solution next time was not a change of tactics, rather "staying compact, defending well, creating chances and then taking them".
According to Schlaudraff, Hannover were "very happy to still be in the competition" and fellow forward Mohammed Abdellaoue agreed. "We were very disappointed to lose tonight but we are very happy to get to the next round," he said. "We're looking forward to playing a good game against Vorskla Poltava and seeing who we get next.
"As a striker you always want to score but tonight it was very difficult as they had a very good defence. The Europa League is very important for the fans and everyone at the club, so we want to show we can play good football."
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