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Europa League

Stuttgart progress in Europa League as German trio lose

Stuttgart will meet Lazio in the last 16 of the Europa League. The southern side won 2-0 in Genk on Thursday to secure qualification. But Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen and Hannover all crashed out.

Stuttgart put two unanswered goals past Genk on Thursday to secure qualification in the Europa League after a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg. Every other German side in contention failed to make amends for poor showings in the first leg last week.

Stuttgart's first major chance fell to Japanese midfielder Shinji Okazaki, who had a goal-bound lob cleared off the line.

The first half was a generally stale affair though, until Arthur Boka found the net moments before the break with a fortunate strike from the edge of the box. The Ivorian international defender, back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, hit a shot from distance after a cleared corner; his effort took a pair of deflections on its way into Laszlo Köteles' goal.

Stuttgart lacked incisiveness going forward but presented a sturdy back line all night on hostile turf. They doubled their advantage on the counter-attack after 58 minutes.

William Kvist won the ball deep in his own half and set off in the other direction. After a lengthy, unopposed dribble, Kvist fed Christian Gentner down the inside-left channel. Gentner shimmied free of his man and shot low into the corner to effectively seal Stuttgart's victory.

The Mercedes-backed side, fresh from a Bundesliga victory over faltering Hoffenheim at the weekend, held out for a win and a place in the last 16 - where they would meet the winner of the other early match involving a Bundesliga side.

Costly error, toothless Foals

Borussia Mönchengladbach traveled to Rome with a staggering 10,000 fans in tow, hoping for another thriller akin to the 3-3 draw in the first leg. The drawback, however, was that two of those Gladbach goals had come from the penalty spot, and another from a free kick - hardly speaking in favor of their attacking prowess in open play. Coach Lucien Favre's Foals could scarcely have wished for a worse start in a tough away game.

Lazio's Alvaro Gonzalez (R) celebrates after scoring the 2-0 (Photo: EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO)
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It didn't start well for Gladbach, and the gap seemed too wide once Gonzalez scored from a rebound

The usually impressive Alvaro Dominguez committed a real howler in the tenth minute to lead to the opening goal. The Spaniard's first touch got away from him in central defense, allowing Antonio Candreva to steal the ball and beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen in a one-on-one.

Already on the back foot after the 3-3 draw at home, Gladbach needed at least two unanswered goals to progress. The side struggled to make any kind of inroads going forward, and took more than an hour to put a single shot on target. By then, they already trailed 2-0.

Ter Stegen could only parry a shot from left-back Stefan Radu in the 33rd minute, and Alvaro Gonzalez was on hand to scoop up the rebound from point-blank range.

Needing three unanswered goals to progress, Gladbach struggled even to threaten Lazio's well-organized defense. The Italians therefore progressed to face Stuttgart in the next round, with only a couple of worrying moments over the 90 minutes.

Leverkusen throw lifeline back to sea

Bayer Leverkusen were in Lisbon for the later kick-off, seeking to undo a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Benfica.

Andre Schuerrle of Bayer Leverkusen in action during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Benfica Lisbon and Bayer Leverkusen at Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal, 21 February 2013. (Photo: EPA/JOSE SENA GOULAO - via dpa)

Andre Schürrle hit the post and scored, to no avail

The visitors started brightly, enjoying the best of the chances - albeit often on the counter - in the opening period. Strikers Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schürrle both rattled the frame of Benfica's goal in the first half. Benfica had their chances too, though, most notably a close-range Nicolas Gaitan header that was brilliantly parried by Bernd Leno.

Kiessling had a goal disallowed early in the second half, with replays showing the officials were quite correct to label him offside by the narrowest of margins when Daniel Carvajal crossed the ball.

On the hour mark, Benfica winger Ola John scored an inspired individual effort. The ex-Twente attacker turned Gonzalo Castro and Carvajal inside out on the left flank, curling his subsequent shot into the top corner.

Leverkusen pulled back into the contention on 75 minutes. After an inadequate Benfica clearance, Arkadiusz Milik headed the loose ball into Andre Schürrle's path - the German international rifled it home from the edge of the box.

But moments after grabbing a lifeline, Leverkusen threw their hard work out of the window. Brazilian Lima tore the Leverkusen offside trap to shreds, meaning he was wide open on the right side of the area, able to pick out a teammate. His cross found Nemanja Matic, who headed past a helpless Leno to seal the tie for the Portuguese hosts.

Hannover fall short in snow

Hannover had the steepest hill of all to climb, having lost 3-1 away to Anzhi Makhachkala. Back on home turf, the northern side put on a vastly improved showing, but fell a goal short.

Hanover's Sergio Da Silva Pinto (R) vies with Makhachkala's Willian (C) as Makhachkala's Joao Carlos (L) looks on during the UEFA Europa League round of 32 second leg soccer match between Hanover 96 and FC Anzhi Makhachkala at Hannover Arena in Hanover, Germany, 21 February 2013. (Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa)

Sergio da Silva Pinto's strike wasn't enough

Mame Biriam Diouf and Didier Ya Konan both went close with first-half headers for Hannover, while Cameroon superstar Samuel Eto'o was tormenting Hannover's full backs on the counter-attack.

The game remained goalless for 65 minutes, until Sergio da Silva Pinto scored from a low Szabolcs Huszti cross.

Hannover pushed on for the required second goal - with a remarkably long time to do so courtesy of eight additional minutes at the end - but couldn't find one. Ultimately, one of Anzhi's counters bore fruit in the dying seconds, when Lacina Traore broke clear of the back line and passed the ball under Ron-Robert Zieler to secure a 4-2 aggregate win.

Stuttgart are therefore the only one of four Bundesliga teams to make the last 16. Curiously, the Swabian side was arguably the least impressive German outfit in the group stages and probably drew the least strong opponent for the first knock-out round.