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Notable names tumble as play-offs conclude

Esbjerg fB's defeat of AS Saint-Étienne was one of the big surprises as some fancied teams fell short in the play-offs, including FC Spartak Moskva, VfB Stuttgart and SC Braga.

UEFA Europa League play-off second legs ©Jaroslav Appeltauer

AS Saint-Étienne, FC Spartak Moskva, OGC Nice, Udinese Calcio, VfB Stuttgart and SC Braga were all big-name casualties on the concluding night of the UEFA Europa League play-offs, losing out to teams who can all look forward to group-stage involvement for the first time.

Stunned 4-3 last week by Esbjerg fB, St-Étienne were beaten again by the Danish Cup holders, succumbing to Moustapha Bayal Sall's own goal 17 minutes from time.

Over in Moscow, Valeri Karpin's Spartak made the perfect start with a first-minute Aras Ozbiliz goal against FC St Gallen, but two first-half strikes from Goran Karanovic inspired the Swiss visitors to a 4-2 win and 5-3 overall success.

Nice similarly failed to build on Dario Cvitanich's fourth-minute opener against Cyprus's Apollon Limassol FC and, despite a 1-0 win on the night, bowed out 2-1 on aggregate. FC Slovan Liberec's 1-1 home draw with Udinese, meanwhile, sent the Czech outfit into their first group stage campaign since 2006/07 as 4-2 winners over the two legs.

As for Stuttgart, their woes continue. Without a point after three Bundesliga fixtures – a run which cost coach Bruno Labbadia his job earlier this week – the Swabian side were heading for extra time against HNK Rijeka until Goran Mujanović equalised at 2-2 for the Croatian club, who advanced 4-3 on aggregate as a result.

The night's final surprise arrived after extra time in Portugal as Braga, the 2011 runners-up, succumbed to CS Pandurii Târgu Jiu. Braga had won the first leg 1-0 but Alin Buleică levelled the aggregate scores after 15 minutes and, with three minutes of extra time remaining, Alexandru Ciucur hit the decisive second goal for the Romanian side.

ACF Fiorentina nearly became a significant scalp themselves, Vincenzo Montella's charges edging out Grasshopper Club on away goals following a 1-0 defeat in Florence. Portugal's Estoril Praia, meanwhile, prevailed in the battle of the debutants, ousting FC Pasching of the Austrian third tier.

In contrast, FC Dynamo Kyiv, FC Rubin Kazan, Real Betis Balompié, R. Standard de Liège, Sevilla FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC enjoyed serene progress. Betis registered the biggest win of the night, putting six without reply past FK Jablonec.

Elsewhere, the encounter between AZ Alkmaar and Atromitos FC was abandoned with the latter winning 1-0 on the night but trailing 3-2 on aggregate. The remaining 31 minutes will be played from 11.00CET on Friday.

Tonight's winners join the ten defeated sides from the UEFA Champions League play-offs and the eight who have already qualified in the draw for the 48-team group stage which takes place tomorrow at 13.00CET.

All of Thursday's results and aggregate scores can be viewed here.

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