Afonso Alves scored a stunning last-minute free-kick as SC Heerenveen beat RC Lens 1-0 to bow out of the UEFA Cup on a high, although it was the French side who advanced to the last 32.
Having picked up just a point from their opening three fixtures in Group D, Heerenveen needed to win and hope Parma FC could do them a big favour against CA Osasuna in order to progress, but the odds proved too heavily stacked against them. Alves provided some consolation in added time as he capped a fine performance with an unstoppable set-piece. Despite the victory, however, the Dutch team remained rooted to the foot of the section, below the other two clubs on four points, Odense BK and Lens, with the latter scraping through on goal difference.
Lens had started the day second, in the knowledge that they were guaranteed to go through as long as they limited Heerenveen to a 1-0 win at most. They were in no mood to take anything for granted, though, and after weathering an early spell of pressure from the hosts when the lively Alves went close, the Ligue 1 outfit began to threaten. Yet although Yohan Demont tested goalkeeper Brian Vandenbussche, Lens had little to show for their possession and Heerenveen gradually regained the initiative.
Top scorer in the Eredivisie this season, Alves was back in the thick of things after the interval. He twice flashed thunderous efforts just past Charles Itandje's goal, and while Lens menaced again through Aruna Dindane and Issam Jemaa at the other end, the night belonged to Alves who grabbed the points late on. Overall honours, however, went to the French challengers.