Liverpool, Steaua, Stuttgart advance in Europa League
SOCCER-EUROPA:Liverpool, Steaua, Stuttgart advance in Europa League
By Tom Pilcher
LONDON (Reuters) - Five-times European champions Liverpool survived a late scare to move into the last 32 of the Europa League on Thursday with a 1-0 win over Udinese and the Premier League club were joined by Steaua Bucharest and VfB Stuttgart.
Midfielder Jordan Henderson's first strike of the season after 23 minutes helped Liverpool leapfrog Group A leaders Anzhi Makhachkala, though Antonio Di Natale blazed a good chance over the bar from inside the area with the last kick of the game.
Udinese played the last 11 minutes with 10 men after Giovanni Pasquale's dismissal and Di Natale could have eliminated Liverpool altogether as Anzhi lost 3-1 at Young Boys in Berne.
All three sides were left on 10 points but the Russian's better record over the Swiss club in a three-way head-to-head took them into the knockout stages.
Former European champions Steaua's 10 men held Copenhagen 1-1 to progress as Group E winners on 11 points with Stuttgart in second on eight and level with the Danes but the Germans progressed owing to a better head-to-head record.
Steaua were reduced to 10 men in the 49th minute when Cristian Tanase was sent off but took the lead through Raul Rusescu after 72 minutes, Copenhagen only capitalising on their advantage late on but it was to no avail.
Holders Atletico Madrid, already assured of last-32 action, lost 1-0 to Viktoria Plzen to finish second by a point in Group B behind the Czechs on 13.
Girondins Bordeaux won the battle for top spot over Newcastle United in Group D, the French club running out 2-0 victors to reach 13 points with the Premier League side on nine.
In Group C, Fenerbahce had already assured top spot ahead of Borussia Moenchengladbach while in Group F Ukraine's Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk had secured first place with Napoli in second.
The last two positions will be filled later on Thursday, with Basel and Hungary's Fehervar vying for the remaining berth in Group G. Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur take on Panathinaikos for the final Group J slot.
European champions Chelsea, knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday, head the eight teams who failed to qualify from Europe's top tier competition this week to make up the 32 in the draw on December 20. (Editing by Ed Osmond)