FC Thun, CS Gaz Metan Mediaş and SV Ried took substantial scalps as the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round concluded, but Club Atlético de Madrid kept their heads in Norway.
Article top media content
Club Atlético de Madrid avoided a second-leg calamity at Strømsgodset IF, but US Città di Palermo, 1. FSV Mainz and Brøndby IF came a cropper in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round decider.
A 2-1 win in the home leg looked to be a slightly fragile one for 2009/10 UEFA Europa League winners Atlético, but they kept their cool in Norway, with goals from Adrián López and – in added time – José Antonio Reyes easing them into Friday's play-off draw.
Palermo will not be in the hat, however, as they failed to recover from a 2-2 draw against FC Thun. The Serie A side took the lead through Pablo González but their Swiss hosts – UEFA Champions League group stage contenders in 2005/06 – won the tie on away goals after equalising through Dario Lezcano on 65 minutes.
Recently-hired Palermo coach Stefano Pioli said: "We are very disappointed. We wanted to start off on the right foot but we did not. I was sure we would qualify tonight but unfortunately we made life difficult for ourselves in the first leg and Thun were in better physical shape than us. Our first objective of the season has gone, we have another two but we have to start working hard very soon because there are lots of things we have to improve."
In Romania, Taher Bawab wrote his name into the CS Gaz Metan Mediaş modest history books as his side unseated German contenders Mainz. The Jordanian-born forward scored the equaliser in a 1-1 first-leg draw, and did so again as the second leg ended with the same result. He then scored the winning penalty as his side won the tie 4-3 on a shoot-out.
Brøndby's rollercoaster tie against SV Ried ended on a gut-churning low as they threw away a two-goal lead in Denmark. Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, Henrik Jensen's side went 4-0 up ten minutes into the second half at home, but lost their nerve at the last, with Daniel Royer and Anel Hadzic striking to put the Austrian club through on away goals.
APOEL FC reached the UEFA Champions League play-offs this week, and there will be two sides from Cyprus in the UEFA Europa League equivalent as AEK Larnaca FC and AC Omonia made it through. "We have made history," said AEK boss Ton Caanen. "I hope the draw will be kind to us." Rivals Anorthosis Famagusta FC missed out despite winning 2-1 at FK Rabotnicki, with the Skopje side the first Macedonian club to reach the play-off round.
Rabotnicki have the additional accolade of having made it all the way to the play-offs from the first qualifying round, along with UEFA Respect Fair Play entrants Fulham FC – who won 2-0 against RNK Split – FC Dinamo Tbilisi and FC Spartak Trnava, who held their nerve to eliminate Bulgarian giants PFC Levski Sofia on penalties.