Europa League: Home win against Dynamo Kiev not enough for Albania’s Skenderbeu to advance to knockout stage

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 24, 2017 12:05

Europa League: Home win against Dynamo Kiev not enough for Albania’s Skenderbeu to advance to knockout stage

TIRANA, Nov. 24 – Albania’s Skenderbeu bid adieu to their Europa League knockout stage qualification dream on Thursday night despite claiming a deserved home win against Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, their first in the first five group stage games.

In a home encounter played behind closed doors following UEFA punishment over crowd trouble, Skenderbeu came from behind to beat the Group B leaders 3-2 and avenge their first leg defeat against Ukraine’s toughest side.

An early equalizer by Albanian playmaker Sabien Lilaj and two second half goals by Nigerian striker James and Gambian forward Sowe gave the Albanian ‘Snow Wolves” a comfortable lead 3-1 lead until injury time when they risked getting punished after the Ukrainians narrowed Skenderbeu’s lead and wasted a golden opportunity just before the final whistle.

Skenderbeu’s victory was downgraded by Partizan’s Belgrade’s home victory against Swiss Young Boys as the Serbians managed to maintain their three-point lead over the Albanian club with one final game to go. The Serbian club have now mathematically secured their qualification to the next stage on a better head-to-head record having claimed a home victory against Skenderbeu and drawn in their first-leg encounter.

Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv have also mathematically secured their qualification to the knockout stage with a two-point lead over Partizan Belgrade whom they host in their final group stage game and can manage even with a home draw to keep their group lead.

Already having a two-point lead over Young Boys, Skenderbeu need at least a draw when they play the Swiss on December 7 to maintain their third place in group B following a 1-1 first leg home draw.

Skenderbeu returned to European competition after a one-year ban imposed by European football governing body, UEFA, on match-fixing allegations in the 2015-2016 Champions and Europa League campaigns, making history as the only Albanian club to have made it in the final stage of European competitions.

Skenderbeu progressed to the 2017 UEFA Europa League group stage as they beat Croatia’s Dinamo Zagreb in the qualifying campaign play-offs. The ‘Snow Wolves’ earlier beat Czech Republic’s Mladá Boleslav, Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty and modest Andorran side Sant Julia in the first three Europa League qualifying rounds.

Albania’s most successful club of the past decade seem unrivaled in this year’s Albanian Superliga with a comfortable lead over main rivals Kukes and Partizani in the first eleven games.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 24, 2017 12:05