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Champions League

Milan, Celtic headed for Champions League group stage

The Champions League group stage participants have been decided. AC Milan, Celtic and Real Sociedad are among the teams to have advanced to the lucrative phase of the competition on the second night of playoff matches.

The final round of qualifying for the Champions League proper was played out on Wednesday night, with five group stage spots up for grabs.

Milan handed visiting PSV Eindhoven a heavy 3-0 defeat at the San Siro after the two sides drew 1-1 in the first leg. Kevin-Prince Boateng gave the Italian side an early lead with a powerful shot from distance in the ninth minute. Mario Balotelli made it 2-0 off a corner 12 minutes into the second half and Boateng grabbed his second with a left-footed effort in the 77th minute.

In Glasgow, Celtic and Shakhter Karagandy faced off in the evening's most dramatic match. The Scottish club headed into the second leg trailing 2-0, but a goal from Kris Commons moments before halftime gave them hope for the second period of play. Just three minutes after the restart, Georgios Samaras evened things up on aggregate after following up a Mikael Lustig shot. The two sides looked headed for extra time until Anthony Stokes cut through three defenders and passing to James Forrest to score the 92nd minute winner.

Sociedad, Plzen, Zenit advance

Real Sociedad enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 victory at home to Lyon. A pair of goals from Mexican striker Carlos Vela helped the side advance 4-0 on aggregate.

A third minute goal from Sanislav Tecl gave Viktoria Plzen 1-0 win over NK Maribor, sending them into the group stage after a 3-1 victory in the first leg.

Zenit St. Petersburg won 4-2 in Russia against Portuguese outfit Pacos de Ferreira in the first match of the evening. Miguel Danny bagged a brace before the 50th minute, with Alexander Bukharov and Andrei Arshavin getting on the board as well. Having already won the first leg 4-1, Zenit progressed with an impressive 8-3 aggregate lead.

Wednesday's five winners join Schalke, Arsenal, FC Basel, Austria Vienna and Steaua Bucharest, who all advanced to the group stage on Tuesday.

The return legs of the Europa League playoffs are set to kick off Thursday, with German sides Eintracht Frankfurt and Stuttgart taking part.

dr/jm (dpa, AFP)