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|Europa League ...|
|Thursday, 23 February 2012 19:59|
Brave Stoke knocked out
ALMOST seven months after it began, Stoke's Europa League adventure came to an end in Valencia as Jonas' first-half goal earned the hosts a 1-0 victory at the Mestalla and a 2-0 win on aggregate. The Potters launched their first European campaign since the 1970s with an away win over Hajduk Split back on August 4 and came through a group containing Besiktas and Dynamo Kiev, winning seven of their 12 games.
It was always an uphill struggle after they lost the home leg last week and they were almost further behind in only the second minute when Salif Diao conceded a free-kick 22 yards out for a foul on Pablo Piatti and Daniel Parejo crashed his effort against the bar.
Kenwyne Jones should have headed in from Ricardo Fuller's cross and the striker was culpable again when a lovely ball from Wilson Palacios picked him out on the edge of the area but he scuffed his shot and Vicente Guaita was able to push it behind.
Somewhat inevitably, Valencia then made Stoke pay in the 24th minute as Pablo Hernandez got the better of Danny Collins and ran all the way to the edge of the six-yard box before setting up Jonas for the simplest of finishes.
The visitors struggled to create anything meaningful thereafter, although Jones headed Jermaine Pennant's cross wide from a rare Stoke sortie as the game entered injury-time, but there was no way back for Tony Pulis' side, who can nevertheless be proud of their efforts in this competition.
UNITED SURVIVE, AJAX FIGHT BACK
Ajax came back from a goal down to defeat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford, but the Premier League club advance to the Europa League last 16 with a 3-2 aggregate win.
United appeared to be on the fast-track to the next round when Javier Hernandez put them ahead on the night after just six minutes, extending their total advantage to three goals to nil following their 2-0 victory at the Amsterdam ArenA last week.
But Aras Ozbiliz pulled one back shortly before the interval and when Toby Alderweireld headed home a free-kick three minutes from time, the home side faced a nervy finish to avoid conceding a third and going out on away goals.
But they were able to hold on and will now take on Athletic Bilbao of the Spanish Primera Liga in the last 16 for a place in the quarter-finals.
Bilbao defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 1-0, scoring just two minutes after being reduced to ten men, to earn the fight to face the Red Devils on the away goals rule.
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