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By Christian Isnard at Bonal stadium
A late goal from Mickaël Isabey helped FC Sochaux-Montbéliard clinch second place in Group D as opponents Panionios NFC were eliminated from the competition.
The home side's captain rounded off a quick counterattack with just three minutes remaining, firing past the resilient Jaroslav Drobný after an astute pass from Ilan to send the crowd at the Bonal stadium into raptures. It capped off a frustrating evening for the Greek outfit, who created a number of second-half opportunities but in the end paid for their profligacy.
Panionios came into the game knowing that victory would seal them a place in the draw for the Round of 32 tomorrow, but it was Sochaux, who needed just a point to progress, who made much of the running in the first half. Moroccan winger Jaouad Zaïri created the most havoc and twice shot wide twice after creating space inside the penalty area.
Zaïri supplied countless crosses into the box but strike partners Santos and Ilan could not meet them. Santos did manage to connect with one header, this time from Jérémy Mathieu's free-kick a minute before the interval, but he could not direct his effort on target from close range.
Panionios celebrated their first away win of the season in their Alpha Ethniki game against Iraklis FC at the weekend and were perhaps reminded of it at the interval. They were a different proposition in the second period and after managing a solitary long-range Evagelos Mantzios effort in the opening 45 minutes, the striker forced goalkeeper Teddy Richert to make his first meaningful save with a 53rd-minute header.
It was the introduction of Slovakia striker Lubomir Meszaros to support Mantzios that proved the turning point. From then on Panionios dominated possession and the home side were limited to sporadic counterattacks as the match turned about face. On 65 minutes, however, Santos again had the chance to calm the crowd's increasing nerves but again disappointed with his finish.
With ten minutes remaining the visitors saw their best chance of the match cleared off the line by defender Grégory Paisley and as they pushed more and more men forward, Isabey capitalised on the break on 87 minutes. The goal saw Sochaux leapfrog Sporting Clube de Portugal into second place after the Portuguese side were held at Newcastle United FC in the section's other match.
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