Despite getting three penalties, Borussia Mönchengladbach could do no better than a draw with Lazio in the first leg of their Europa League fixture. It was a bad day all around for the German competitors.
Mönchengladbach were the better team right from the start against their visitors from Rome, who were missing German striker Miroslav Klose due to injury. In particular, Juan Arango looked dangerous for the Foals.
And after a quarter of an hour, he released Patrick Herrmann, who was felled from behind in the area. Defender Martin Stranzl blasted the ball in hard and high from the spot to give the hosts a well-deserved lead.
In the second half, though, Gladbach sat back a little too deep and ten minutes after the restart they paid for it. Sergio Floccario ghosted into the middle of the area and latched on to a cross, giving Lazio the equalizer.
And only five minutes later Libor Kozak put Lazio in front. Again the Gladbach defense failed to track a striker who got his foot to a cross.
Then in minute 68, Gladbach were handed a serious lifeline when André Dias brought down Stranzl in the area, earning himself a red card and gifting the hosts another penalty. But this time, Stranzl tried to be too precise from the spot, and Federico Marchetti was able to save.
Gladbach looked to be headed to defeat, but Lazio gave them yet another helping hand. Luuk de Jong was pushed over in the area, and the referee awarded the Foals their third penalty of the evening. Thorben Marx did the honors, and the score was 2-2.
With three minutes left in regular time, Arango seemingly capped off a remarkable comeback, hammering in a free kick from 30 meters out. But in the dying seconds, Kozak nabbed his brace to earn Lazio a draw.
“It’s very, very tough, I have to say,” visibly shaken Gladbach coach Lucien Favre told reporters after the match. ”To allow crosses like that…it simply won’t do.”
The 3-3 draw means that Mönchengladbach need a very convincing performance next week in the Italian capital to progress.
Stuttgart concede late
Stuttgart came into their home match against Belgian side Genk carrying a five-game domestic losing streak and desperately needing a confidence-building win. In the initial phase of the game they did little to earn one. Indeed, Genk would have gone ahead against a poor Stuttgart back four had they been able to stay onside.
But in minute 42, Gotoku Sakai’s shot went through a defender's legs, causing the Belgian keeper to bobble the ball. Christian Gentner mopped up the rebound to give the Southern Germans a flattering halftime lead.
After the break, Stuttgart were more than content to protect their advanatge against a side that generated pressure but seemed incapable of finding the range.
That was a drastic mistake. In injury time, three Stuttgart defenders allowed striker Glynor Plet to get behind them. He nodded home, and the Belgian minnows had a 1-1 draw.
That result deepens the sense of crisis in Stuttgart and puts even more pressure on embattled coach Bruno Labbadia.
Two early defeats
Things got off to a bright start for Hannover against Dagestan side Anzhi Makhachkala, who play their home international matches in the Russian capital for security reasons. Szabolcs Huszti put the visitors ahead in minute 22.
After that, though, it was all Anzhi. Superstar striker Samuel Eto'o leveled things just after the half-hour mark. And the hosts popped in two further goals in the second half to cruise to victory. The scoreline could have been worse than the eventual 3-1 had Ron-Robert Zieler not saved an Eto'o penalty in minute 60. But Hannover won't fancy their chances of progressing in the tournament.
Nor will Bayer Leverkusen. They were the far better side at home against Benfica but it was the Portugese side who scored the lone goal - a left-footed effort by striker Oscar Cardozo on the hour mark.
Sidney Sam came close to salvaging a draw in the dying seconds of injury time, but Benfica managed to clear on the line and claim the 1-0 victory. All reverse fixtures take place on February 21.