Fiorentina survive Sporting scare to progress

FIORENTINA were held to a 1-1 draw by Sporting Lisbon in Florence but booked their place in the Champions League group stage on away goals.

The first leg in Lisbon ended in a 2-2 draw and the Viola had some anxious moments last night after Sporting took a 35th-minute lead with Joao Moutinho’s free-kick.

The hosts, who mustered little in the opening half, came to life after the restart mainly due to the impact of substitute Stevan Jovetic.

Jovetic replaced Massimo Gobbi after the break and scored the equaliser in the 54th minute.

With time running out, the Portuguese pushed all of their players forward in search of a winner. But the Fiorentina defence and in-form goalkeeper Sebastien Frey held firm, with the latter punching away Liedson’s desperate late header.

Meanwhile, Cypriot international Chrysis Michael played a captain’s role by bagging a brace to ensure Cyprus minnows APOEL Nicosia reached the group stages following a 3-1 win over Copenhagen.

The Cypriot outfit overturned a 1-0 away defeat in Denmark to win the tie 3-2 on aggregate, and put Cyprus back on the European football map.

APOEL got off to a flying start with Polish midfielder Kamil Kosowski catching the defence square and volleying home from six yards after chesting down a lofted through ball from Cypriot international Costas Charalambides.

A reckless challenge by Zdenek Pospech inside the area that enabled APOEL to go two up on 18 minutes, when Michael calmly converted from the penalty spot.

Just when Copenhagen seemed to be sinking without trace, Dame N’Doye pegged back the score with a vital away goal four minutes later, scoring with a downward header as APOEL failed to deal with a low cross into the box.

But the scoring didn’t finish there during an entertaining first half, when Michael bagged his second with a diving header after an inch-perfect Charalambides cross.

Copenhagen almost mustered an instant reply but a Zanka Jorgensen effort was cleared off the line as the interval beckoned.

Copenhagen piled on the pressure, but the Nicosians held firm to register a famous victory and follow Anorthosis Famagusta as the second Cypriot side to reach the group stages.

Stuttgart joined fellow Bundesliga representatives Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in today’s draw for the group stages of the Champions League, after completing a 2-0 aggregate victory over Timisoara with a goalless draw at the Mercedes-Benz Arena last night.

Markus Babbel’s side had effectively done all of the hard work in Romania a week ago and spent 90 minutes controlling their advantage against a timid Timisoara side.

The visitors rarely threatened to find a route back into the game and it was their hosts who came the closest to scoring when Sebastian Rudy hit the post in the 58th minute.

Greek champions Olympiakos sealed their passage to the group stages with a pedestrian victory over Sheriff Tiraspol, going through 3-0 on aggregate after a 1-0 win last night.

First leg hero Konstantinos Mitroglou scored the only goal of the game with eight minutes remaining to secure the win which was never in doubt for the Greeks.

Having done the difficult work away from home the Greek side knew keeping a clean sheet would secure Champions League football.

Olympiakos went closest in the opening 45 minutes when Avraam Papadopoulos hit the crossbar with a fine header.

Sheriff ran out of steam in the second half and inevitably Olympiakos scored.

Striker Konstantinos Mitroglou got his much deserved reward when he scored with eight minutes remaining.

Georgios Galitsios put in a fine cross which was knocked down by Enzo Maresca and Mitroglou fired into the empty net to secure the win on the night.

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