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Anderlecht leave it late to deny AEL upset

RSC Anderlecht 2-0 AEL Limassol FC (agg: 3-2)
The Belgian side were heading out after squandering numerous chances before two goals in the last nine minutes turned the tie around.

Anderlecht leave it late to deny AEL upset
Anderlecht leave it late to deny AEL upset ©UEFA.com

A place at European football's top table awaits RSC Anderlecht after late goals from Dieudonné Mbokani and Olexandr Yakovenko ended AEL Limassol FC's dream of reaching the UEFA Champions League group stage.

Trailing 2-1 after the first leg, the Belgian hopefuls endured a vexing night as they missed a raft of opportunities and found Matias Degra impossible to beat. Tenacious and spirited, AEL seemed increasingly capable of completing a major upset, but they will have to content themselves with a spot in the UEFA Europa League after Mbokani drove in Massimo Bruno's cross with nine minutes remaining; Yakovenko added a second.

With their fans craving a return to the UEFA Champions League proper for the first time since 2006/07, Anderlecht made an animated start, yet had to wait until the tenth minute for Tom De Sutter to screw their first chance wide. That opening came courtesy of Mbokani, his team's scorer in the first leg and a dynamic presence again, but the visitors were giving little away at the back and had their own sighter at goal when Monteiro fired the wrong side of the post from outside the area.

Charalampos Christodoulou's men were largely content with sitting back, however, and they will have felt huge relief as Lucas Biglia sliced off-target following another clever Mbokani pass. Degra then denied Kanu, but Anderlecht looked vulnerable on the break and needed Silvio Proto to save with his legs when Rui Miguel appeared destined to score, the No10 released expertly by Vouho.

AEL lost Monteiro to a groin problem shortly afterwards and the hosts stepped up their pressure before the interval, only to meet with further frustration. Anderlecht were struggling to capitalise on their possession, but they remained a threat and went close on 57 minutes when Mbokani outjumped Degra to head the ball goalwards, requiring centre-back Edwin Ouon to nod over.

John van den Brom sent on Yakovenko to liven things up and the Ukrainian forward soon sent Degra sprawling to his right. That gave the home crowd renewed hope and they were on their seats when Guillaume Gillet subsequently rattled the bar after Mbokani had headed the ball back across goal. AEL were suffering, and Degra did superbly to deny Yakovenko three times in succession from point-blank range.

The sense that it would not be Anderlecht's night was nonetheless growing, not least when Biglia then hit a rasping effort narrowly wide. Mbokani had other ideas, however, and Yakovenko capped the win by burying inside the far post from the left.

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