AA Gent secured a 1-all draw in Croatia against Rijeka, after having won the home tie 2-1. It was defender Igor Plastun who scored the away goal, wiping out a Rijeka goal after just two minutes. AA Gent were rewarded for a long campaign in which they had to play 3 qualifying rounds, i.e. 6 extra matches in 6 weeks. For KAA Gent, the European group phase is a relief after the shock defeat against KV Mechelen in the Cup Final.
AA Gent will not meet a British team in today's draw for the group phase. They will face Wolfsburg (Germany), Saint-Etienne (France) and Olexandriia (Ukraine).
Nightmare for Antwerp
The country's oldest club, Antwerp FC, had secured a 1-all draw in Enschede against AZ last week. They didn't have to score in Brussels, and were not in trouble until veteran striker Dieumerci Mbokani was sent off on 36 minutes, after two yellow cards. The tables turned, but Antwerp still managed to climb ahead after the break via Didier Lamkel Zé: 1-0.
Antwerp were in heaven, but just for a short time: Lamkel Zé celebrated his goal on the fence with the fans, and was shown a second yellow (photos). Antwerp were down to 9 men, AZ became the better team and looked set to score, though this only happened just before the end: 1-1, and Antwerp were without a chance in the 30 minutes extra time. Pundits say that Antwerp only had themselves to blame for the defeat, and AZ coach Arne Slot agreed: "On full strength Antwerp were the better team".
The dramatic exit - the Antwerp fans misbehaved in the stands, after which the referee suspended the game for a while - leaves Belgium with two teams in the Europa League: Standard and KAA Gent. Standard were drawn against Arsenal (England), Frankfurt (Germany) and Guimaraes (Portugal).
Antwerp mostly had themselves to blame for the dramatic exit