Second-half goals from captain Erik Meijer and substitute Daniel Gomez saw 2. Bundesliga side TSV Alemannia Aachen reach the last 32 of the UEFA Cup with a superb Group H victory over AEK Athens FC.
The German side went into the match knowing only a victory would be good enough to see them progress to the next stage, with any other result meaning Russian side FC Zenit St. Peterburg would join LOSC Lille Métropole and Sevilla FC in qualifying.
The match began quietly with both sides failing to stamp their authority on proceedings. AEK, who were bidding to avoid losing all four of their group matches, had the first real effort on goal, with Leonidas Kampantais forcing Stephan Straub to make a fine fingertip save in the 16th minute.
Aachen responded well to that scare with midfield player Kai Michalke at the heart of most of their attacking play. In the 26th minute his floated free-kick found the head of left-back Stefan Blank, whose glancing effort flew inches wide. Then, just two minutes later, a scramble in the AEK area resulted in Michalke firing a shot towards goal that was cleared off the line.
In front of a sparse home crowd, AEK coach Fernando Santos freshened up his attack at half-time with a double substitution, and his decision almost paid off in the 48th minute. AEK's best move of the match saw a long ball from Christos Bourmpos find the head of Brazilian substitute Alessandro Soares. His knockdown for Konstantinos Katsouranis was perfect, but the midfield player put his shot just wide under pressure from a visiting defender.
With AEK pressing for the lead, Aachen went ahead against the run of play in the 56th minute. A superb through ball from Jens Scharping found Reiner Plasshenrich in an onside position in the area. His shot from an acute angle hit the post, but Meijer was on hand to follow up with the easiest of finishes from a metre out.
AEK could have levelled matters ten minutes later, when a run on the right wing from Bourmpos saw him deliver a ball to the edge of the area to where Nikos Lyberopoulos was running in at speed. His well-struck shot flew just wide of the Aachen goal.
But AEK were leaving gaps at the back, and Aachen sealed their passage with six minutes remaining when a break down the left from Blank saw him deliver a perfect cross into the area, for Frenchman Gomez to fire in. There was still time for Meijer to waste the easiest chance of the game to make it 3-0, mis-kicking from close range after more good work on the left from Michalke.
Lille take top spot
With Lille beating Sevilla 1-0 in the other match to top the group, the German side qualify in third. AEK will be disappointed as they finished bottom after losing all four of their matches.