Real Sociedad snatched qualification for the last 32 of the Europa League in the final seconds on Thursday after Willian Jose’s late leveller in a 1-1 draw at Napoli and AZ Alkmaar’s shock 2-1 defeat at Rijeka allowed the Spanish side to progress.
Young Boys, Molde, Wolfsberg and Maccabi Tel-Aviv rounded off the group stage by making Monday’s draw in Nyon, where they join the 18 already-qualified teams and will be met by eight drop-outs from the Champions League.La Liga high-fliers Sociedad were heading out of Europe as the final two matches of Group F headed into stoppage time, with Alkmaar set to go through in second place as the Dutch side were drawing at bottom side Rijeka and Napoli led in Naples thanks to Piotr Zielinski’s fine first half strike.
However Jose’s thumping finish to level the scores at a soaking Stadio Diego Armando Maradona put the Basque outfit back into second place, and Ivan Tomecak’s 93rd-minute winner for Rijeka in Croatia confirmed Alkmaar’s elimination.
Napoli finish top of the group on 11 points, two ahead of Sociedad in second who end the group stage a further point ahead of Alkmaar.
“I am happy, but the result was more important than who scored tonight. We achieved qualification and that is why we are all happy,” said Zielinski.
Gennaro Gattuso’s side knew that despite racking up 10 points in their previous five matches a defeat could cost them qualification and he started a strong team that was still missing injured forward Victor Osimhen.
Sociedad meanwhile needed to match Alkmaar with the pair level on eight points and in the absence of attacker Mikel Oyarzabal missed a host of chances early on. Zielinski punished Sociedad for these misses when he opened the scoring against the run of play in the 35th minute when he classily brought down a clearance from a corner and lashed home a powerful finish.However Jose sparked wild celebrations when he span and hit his shot into the roof of Ospina’s net with seconds remaining, sending his team into Monday’s last-32 draw.
Young Boys also qualified in dramatic fashion in the last round of group matches, on a night when iconic Italian striker Paolo Rossi was remembered across Europe after his death late on Wednesday night.
A 93rd-minute penalty from Jean-Pierre Nsame and Gianluca Gaudino’s strike three minutes later sent the Swiss side through alongside Group A winners Roma with a 2-1 win over Cluj that also featured three red cards.