Rangers earned top spot in their Europa Leaguea s a comfortable 2-0 win away at Lech Poznan ensured they finished above Benfica. Leicester City also topped their group after beating AEK Athens by the same scoreline at the King Power Stadium.
Goals from Cedric Itten and Ianis Hagi earned Rangers victory, and a £900,000 bonus for topping Group D after Benfica drew 2-2 with Standard Liège. It also means Steven Gerrard’s side will be seeded in the last-32 draw, avoiding heavyweights like Manchester United, Arsenal, Ajax, Bayer Leverkusen and Roma.
Swiss forward Itten pounced on a defensive mistake to put the visitors ahead, drilling an unstoppable drive past keeper Filip Bednarek at his near post on the half-hour. That helped settle Rangers after a nervous start, with Lubomir Satka missing the best chance for Poznan as he put his free header over the bar. Ianis Hagi settled matters with 18 minutes left, heading home after Connor Goldson had hit the bar.
“I think it is a huge achievement to win the group and it is thoroughly deserved,” Gerrard said afterwards. “Going on our performances over the six games, we deserve to be in the number one position. I think our progress and how quickly we are moving forward is clear to see, certainly from a European point of view.
”To be at this level now, competing and beating teams at this level shows the big steps that we have taken. The challenge now is can we keep building on it?” the Rangers manager added. “We are looking forward to the draw on Monday. We will need a bit of luck … but we will hopefully have a fit squad [in February] and if we do we will be a challenge for whoever we face.”
Leicester will also be seeded in Monday’s draw after quickfire first-half goals from Cengiz Under and Harvey Barnes earned a 2-0 win over AEK Athens and top spot in Group G. Braga beat Zorya Luhansk 2-0 in the group’s other game, but had to settle for second place.
The hosts were without the injured James Maddison but were able to leave Jamie Vardy on the bench in a comfortable victory. The result rarely looked in doubt after the Foxes went ahead 12 minutes in, when Youri Tielemans’ cross was sliced into the air by defender Stratos Svarnas.
Turkish winger Under lashed the rebound home on the volley from 15 yards, and Barnes got Leicester’s second two minutes later, cutting in from the left and firing a shot that deflected in off Ionut Nedelcearu. Wilfred Ndidi and Dennis Praet missed chances as Brendan Rodgers’ side pushed for more goals, but the job was done.
Napoli and Real Sociedad both claimed their places in the last 32 with a 1-1 draw at the newly renamed Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. Piotr Zielinski put the hosts ahead in the 35th minute but Willian José grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser for the visitors. The La Liga side squeezed through after AZ Alkmaar lost 2-1 at Rijeka.
In Group A, Switzerland’s Young Boys produced an extraordinary late comeback to deny Cluj a place in the last 32. The Romanian side went ahead in the 84th minute, but Jean-Pierre Nsame and Gianluca Gaudino both struck in stoppage time to send the 10-man hosts through instead of their nine-man opponents.
Milan finished top of Group H as Norwegian forward Jens Petter Hauge scored a fine solo goal in the first half to earn a 1-0 win at Sparta Prague. Lille qualified as runners-up despite an unexpected 3-2 defeat to Celtic. In Group K, Austria’s Wolfsberger defeated Feyenoord to go through at the Eredivise side’s expense. Group winners Dynamo Zagreb beat already-eliminated CSKA Moscow 3-1 in Croatia.
Elsewhere, Leon Bailey scored twice as Bayer Leverkusen beat Slavia Prague 4-0 to take top spot in Group C, and PSV Eindhoven pipped Granada to first place in Group E after a 4-0 win over Omonia. The La Liga side go through as runners-up after a goalless draw at PAOK Salonika.