American Exports: Kljestan, Anderlecht move on in Europa
AMSTERDAM — Several American Exports clocked in for Europa League duty on Thursday, with Sacha Kljestan setting up the capper in Anderlecht's 3-0 Group L win over 10-man Sturm Graz.
Shortly after his outlet pass found the crosser for the home side's second goal of the night, the former Chivas USA playmaker slipped Tom De Sutter in alone for a breakaway third on 80 minutes. The Mauves, the only of 48 group-phase teams remaining perfect through four rounds, have now qualified for the knockout stage.
Elsewhere, Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City were the beneficiaries of a fortunate late penalty call, capping their rally from two down for a 2-2 share with visiting Group H pace-setters Club Brugge. The result was good enough to keep the Brums second on goal differential, with 2011 runners up Braga also level with the top two on seven points.
Over in Group K, Clint Dempsey's Fulham moved within a win of securing their pass to the knockouts by drubbing guests Wisla Krakow 4-1. The active US international was unable to get any of his four shots on frame, but that didn't stop the Cottagers from moving four points clear of the bottom two.
Jozy Altidore and AZ Alkmaar were again fit to be tied 2-2 against Austria Vienna, leaving the Dutch leaders second in Group G.
In a reversal of the events from the home clash last time out, the Cheese Farmers jumped ahead on a pair of first half goals only to suffer a home rally in the game's final phase. Altidore worked a solid 86 minutes for the visitors, but spurned a great late chance to win the match when he fired just over from 16 yards.
Four teams that prominently feature Americans went without them on Thursday. Oguchi Onyewu watched from the dugout as Sporting CP all but punched their ticket to the round of 32 despite a 1-0 Group D loss to FC Vaslui in Romania, while Steve Cherundolo went unused as Hannover 96 climbed level on points with first place in Group B thanks to a fightback 2-1 triumph at FC Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, Jermaine Jones got the night off as Group J toppers Schalke settled for a 0-0 draw with Cypriot visitors AEK Larnaca and Brad Friedel enjoyed his usual Europa League powder while Tottenham slipped to third in Group A with a 1-0 defeat to Rubin Kazan in Russia.