Europa League Roundup: Iheanacho, Ndidi, Aribo & Others Secure Qualification

The group stages of the Europa League reached its conclusion on Thursday night, and several Nigerian stars will still be playing European football next February

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It was a good day for Nigerian players and their clubs as they sealed qualification for the Europa League round of 32.

In England, both Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi helped Leicester City to a 2-0 win over AEK Athens at the King Power Stadium.

Iheanacho featured for 67 minutes before he was taken off for Ayoze Perez, while Ndidi featured for 63 minutes in what was his third appearance since returning from injury.

Goals from Cengiz Under and Harvey Barnes inside the first 20 minutes were enough to ensure the Foxes finish top of Group G.

In Holland, highly-rated teenager, Noni Madueke was missing as PSV thrashed Abdullahi Shehu’s Omonia Nicosia 4-0.

Shehu, who was on the pitch for the whole duration of the encounter, could not prevent the Dutch side from running riot.

Donyell Malen put the host ahead in the 35th minute before Denzel Dumfries added a second from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute.

A brace from Joel Piroe in added time made it an emphatic win for PSV. The win ensured PSV finished top of Group E ahead of Granada, who could only manage a 0-0 draw at PAOK.

Meanwhile, in Poland, Joe Aribo and Leon Balogun featured as Rangers secured top spot in Group D courtesy of a 2-0 victory over Lech Poznan.

Aribo played for the whole duration while Balogun featured for 80 minutes as goals from Cedric Itten and Ianis Hagi sealed the three points for Steven Gerrard’s men.

Peter Olayinka was also in action for Slavia Prague, but the Czech champions suffered an embarrassing 4-0 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen.

Olayinka, who has two goals in five Europa League games this season, was on the pitch for the full minutes, but could not add to his tally.

A brace from Leon Baily and strikes from Moussa Diaby and Karim Bellarabi was enough to secure top spot for Bayer Leverkusen.  However, despite the thrashing, Slavia Prague qualified for the knock-out stage with 12 points.

Meanwhile, Samuel Chukwueze was not in action as Villarreal’s final group match was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Qarabag team.

The Yellow Submarines has, however, sealed top spot in Group I already. In the other group game, Nigeria’s top scorer in the Europa League this season, Olanrewaju Kayode, could not add to his four goals as Sivasspor campaign ended with a 1-0 defeat at Maccabi Tel Aviv.

In Austria, Leke James was impressive as Molde finished second behind Arsenal in Group B following a 2-2 draw against Rapid Wien. 

Finally, Chidera Ejuke was missing as CSKA Moscow finished bottom of Group K following a 3-1 defeat at Dinamo Zagreb.  The Russians ended their campaign with three draws and three losses.

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