BELGRADE (Reuters) - Europa League holders Atletico Madrid failed to secure the point required to qualify for the knockout stages after a 2-0 defeat at Portugal’s Academica ended their 16-match unbeaten run in the continent’s second-tier competition on Thursday.
Wilson Eduardo netted twice for Academica to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the last 32, having volleyed the hosts ahead after an inviting cross by Joas Dias before he steered in a second-half penalty.
Czech side Viktoria Plzen took advantage of Atletico’s slip-up and joined them at the top of Group B after easing to a 4-0 home win against Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Plzen and Atletico have nine points each while Academica are on four with two rounds of matches remaining in the 48-team group stage of the competition.
Treble UEFA Cup winners Liverpool suffered a setback in Moscow after they were beaten by Anzhi Makhachkala, who went top of Group A when Ivorian Lacina Traore scored a superb winner on the stroke of halftime.
With one eye on Sunday’s Premier League clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers fielded a makeshift side who were undone by the lanky 22-year old striker.
Traore took a long through ball into his stride and left two Liverpool defenders flat-footed with a cheeky turn before he dispatched a perfect lob over goalkeeper Brad Jones from the edge of the penalty box.
The result left Liverpool second in Group A, a point behind Anzhi who have seven, but level with Young Boys who were surprise 3-2 winners at Udinese. Italian striker Antonio Di Natale missed a penalty for the home side before he briefly gave them hope with an equaliser.
Udinese are three points adrift of Anzhi and prop up the delicately balanced group.
Newcastle United held Club Bruges to a 2-2 draw in Group D after they fought back from a two-goal deficit, with Macedonian midfielder Ivan Trickovski and Dane Jesper Jorgensen firing the home side ahead before Dutchman Vurnon Anita and Shola Ameobi replied.
Napoli twice overturned a one-goal deficit to beat Ukrainians Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 4-2 at home and stay in the hunt for a Group F knockout stage berth.
Russian outfit Rubin Kazan moved to 10 points to top Group H with a 1-0 win at Azerbaijan’s Neftchi Baku and they can qualify if Inter Milan fail to lose at Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade later on Thursday.
In Group E Steaua Bucharest moved closer to qualification with a 2-1 win away to Norway’s Molde and they have a lead of five points over VfB Stuttgart who beat Copenhagen 2-0 in Denmark.
Steaua are on 10 points, ahead of Stuttgart with Copenhagen a point further back and Molde on three.
Olympique Marseille and Borussia Moenchengladbach continued their dogfight with a 2-2 draw on the French coast in Group C.
They both have five points and are as many behind Fenerbahce after the Turkish champions beat Cypriots AEL Limassol 2-0 in Istanbul.
Swedish club AIK beat PSV Eindhoven in Stockholm thanks to a first-half wonder goal from on-loan Celtic striker Mohamed Bangura.
“If you’re going to win these games, you have to score great goals. Mohamed scored a fantastic goal. A brilliant achievement,” AIK coach Andreas Alm told Sweden’s TV4 Sport. (Additional reporting by Phil O‘Connor; Editing by Tom Pilcher)