A last-minute header from Isaac Kiese Thelin squeezed Anderlecht into the Europa League last 16 on away goals on Thursday where the Belgian side were joined by Ajax and Roma. Anderlecht’s hopes of progressing against Zenit St Petersburg appeared over after the Russians overturned a 2-0 first leg deficit to lead 3-2 with seconds remaining.
But Kiese Thelin’s decisive intervention earned Anderlecht an unlikely ticket to the last 16 to keep alive their dream of a first continental honour since their 1983 UEFA Cup triumph. It was the 24-year-old Swedish international’s first goal for the club he joined last month on loan from French Ligue 1 outfit Bordeaux.
Ajax had lifted the UEFA Cup the season before Anderlecht and the Dutch giants made it into the next round courtesy of defender Nick Viergever’s close-range finish in the 49th minute against Legia Warsaw. The only goal over the two legs put Ajax through by the slimmest of margins.
Also progressing were Roma, 4-1 on aggregate despite Villarreal taking the second leg 1-0, Besiktas, APOEL and Olympiakos. On Wednesday Manchester United cruised into the last 16 with a 1-0 win at Saint Etienne for a 4-0 aggregate success.
Also surviving to live another day in Europe’s second tier competition on Wednesday were Schalke and Russian outfit Krasnodar, who saw off Fenerbahce.