ATHENS -- AEK FC made an epic comeback to defeat 2-1 Vfl Wolfsburg in the Olympic Stadium of Athens and go through 2020-21 Europa League Group Stage.
Vfl Wolfsburg were ahead in the half time as Pavao Pervan saved Petros Mantalos' penalty kick and Admir Mehmedi scored in 45th minute. However AEK made a great display in the second half and won the game with a stunning shot by Andre Simoes in 64th minute and a shot by Karim Ansarifard in the 4th minute of injury time.
AC Milan reached the Europa League group stage after a nervy 9-8 penalty shootout win over Portuguese club Rio Ave on Thursday, having netted a fortunate last-gasp equalizer in extra time.
Milan trailed 2-1 in extra time until Toni Borevkovic gave away a penalty in the 121st minute with a careless handball, allowing Hakan Calhanoglu to level from the spot. Rio Ave then had three chances to win the penalty shootout but missed each time, before Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made the decisive save to send his team through.
The shootout featured 24 penalties in total, with both goalkeepers sending their efforts over the bar.
Tottenham had no such troubles as Harry Kane scored his first hat trick of the season in a 7-2 win over Maccabi Haifa.
However, last year’s quarterfinalist Basel and German club Wolfsburg were both eliminated.
Rio Ave also looked set to spring an upset after Gelson gave the Portuguese club the lead in extra time. However, Borevkovic inexplicably downed a high ball into the area with his hand to give away a penalty with just seconds left — getting his second yellow card in the process.
In the shootout, Nelson Monte first had a chance to win it for Rio Ave with the score at 7-7, but his penalty hit the left post and then rolled across the goalline before hitting the other post and going out.
After Donnarumma sent his penalty over the bar at 8-8, his counterpart Pawel Kieszek did the same. And when Chico Geraldes was given a third chance to win it for the Portuguese side, his effort hit the right post.
Tottenham's win came exactly a year to the day after losing 7-2 to Bayern Munich at home in the Champions League group stage
Kane opened the scoring after just two minutes from close range, and added two more in the second half. Giovani Lo Celso netted two goals in the span of three first-half minutes and Lucas Moura added one for Tottenham before the break. Dele Alli finished off the rout from the penalty spot in injury time.
Tjaronn Chery and Nikita Rukavytsya scored for Haifa.
The single-leg qualifying games have been played in empty stadiums and on a tight schedule in the pandemic-delayed season.
Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade advanced by beating Ararat-Armenia 2-1 in Nicosia. The game was moved by UEFA from Armenia’s capital of Yerevan to neutral Cyprus amid the country’s escalating conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan over over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s Qarabag qualified after a 3-0 away win at Legia in Poland, while Basel was upset 3-1 at home by CSKA-Sofia.
Scottish powerhouses Celtic and Rangers both secured a place in Europa League for third straight season.
Forward Odsonne Édouard netted the lone goal for Celtic at Sarajevo while Rangers knocked out Turkey’s Galatasaray 2-1 at Ibrox Stadium.
Spain’s Granada, Switzerland’s Young Boys, Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, Croatia's Dinamo Zagreb, Belgium’s Standard Liege, Ireland’s Dundalk and Poland's Lech were also among the 21 clubs to qualify from the playoffs.
The 48-team draw for the group stage is scheduled for Friday.