A Manuel Friedrich header sent ten-man Bayer 04 Leverkusen through to the last 32 of the UEFA Cup at the expense of AC Sparta Praha.
With both sides knowing that a draw might not be enough to take them to the next stage of the competition, Michael Skibbe’s side seemed to have lost the initiative after Carsten Ramelow was dismissed for violent conduct on 60 minutes. However, Freidrich rose to head home from a Tranquillo Barnetta corner eleven minutes later to send Sparta out of the competition.
The home side made the brighter start, although a wall of Sparta players prevented them from encroaching into their penalty area. Unperturbed, Leverkusen chose instead to test Sparta goalkeeper Tomáš Grigar with a succession of shots from distance. Paul Freier twice brought the best out of the Czech custodian either side of a Gonzalo Castro effort which forced Grigar to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The visitors looked for their chances on the break and almost found themselves going into the interval ahead. Miroslav Slepička's shot forced René Adler into an agile diving save down to his left which the Leverkusen goalkeeper eventually cleared at the second attempt.
Leverkusen had done most of the running in the first 45 minutes, but within 15 minutes of the restart, they were given even more running to do when captain Ramelow reacted angrily to a tackle by Jan Rezek and pushed his opponent to the floor, leaving referee Martin Atkinson little choice but to send him off.
The home side rose to the challenge of being a man down, and ten minutes later they were ahead. After Theofanis Gekas had missed several opportunities, Friedrich headed Barnetta's corner just inside the near post for the only goal of the game. Leverkusen’s success ensured that both FC Spartak Moskva and FC Zürich also qualify from Group E, despite the Swiss side’s 1-0 defeat in the Russian capital. Leverkusen travel to face Zürich in their final game on 19 December.