The group stage of the 2017-18 UEFA Europa League drew to a close on Thursday evening as 32 teams proceeded to the next round of the continental competition.
Gennaro Gattuso suffered defeat in his first European outing as AC Milan manager—a 2-0 loss at Rijeka—but still saw his side proceed as winners of Group C along with AEK Athens, who ran to a 0-0 stalemate at Austria Wien.
Premier League outfits Arsenal and Everton already knew their Europa League fates prior to Matchday 6, but the Gunners trampled over BATE Borisov 6-0 to end their Group H campaign with a flourish nonetheless. The Toffees bowed out in drab fashion despite beating Group E rivals Apollon Limassol 3-0 on Thursday.
Lyon settled for second in Group E after they lost 1-0 in their trip to table-toppers Atalanta, while a 1-0 defeat at home to Maccabi Tel Aviv wasn't enough to prevent Villarreal finishing at the summit of Group A.
Home defeats for Villarreal and Real Sociedad didn't stop them progressing, and Athletic Bilbao masterminded a comeback to top their pool, leaving Swedish upstarts Ostersunds in the runner-up berth.
Astana beat Slavia Prague 1-0 to leapfrog their Czech opponents into the round of 32, while Super Lig leaders Basaksehir departed despite beating Group C winners Braga.
Here's how the final tables look after the conclusion of the 2017-18 Europa League group stage, with the top two from each pool advancing to the round of 32:
- Villarreal: 11 pts
- Astana: 10 pts
- Slavia Prague: 8 pts
- Maccabi Tel Aviv: 4 pts
- Dynamo Kiev: 13 pts
- Partizan Belgrade: 8 pts
- Young Boys: 6 pts
- Skenderbeu: 5 pts
- Braga: 10 pts
- Ludogorets: 9 pts
- Istanbul Basaksehir: 8 pts
- Hoffenheim: 5 pts
- AC Milan: 11 pts
- AEK Athens: 8 pts
- Rijeka: 7 pts
- Austria Vienna: 5 pts
- Atalanta: 14 pts
- Lyon: 11 pts
- Everton: 4 pts
- Apollon Limassol: 3 pts
- Lokomotiv Moscow: 11 pts
- Copenhagen: 9 pts
- Sheriff Tiraspol: 9 pts
- Fastav Ziln: 2 pts
- Viktoria Plzen: 12 pts
- Steaua Bucharest: 10 pts
- Lugano: 9 pts
- Hapoel Beer-Sheva: 4 pts
- Arsenal: 13 pts
- Red Star Belgrade: 9 pts
- Cologne: 6 pts
- BATE Borisov: 5 pts
- Red Bull Salzburg: 12 pts
- Marseille: 8 pts
- Konyaspor: 6 pts
- Vitoria SC: 5 pts
- Athletic Bilbao: 11 pts
- Ostersunds: 11 pts
- Zorya Luhansk: 6 pts
- Hertha Berlin: 5 pts
- Lazio: 13 pts
- Nice: 9 pts
- Zulte Waregem: 7 pts
- Vitesse Arnhem: 5 pts
- Zenit Saint Petersburg: 16 pts
- Real Sociedad: 12 pts
- Rosenborg: 5 pts
- Vardar: 0 pts
Full standings are available per the tournament's official website.
Apollon Limassol 0-3 Everton
Atalanta 1-0 Lyon
Austria Wien 0-0 AEK Athens
Istanbul Basaksehir 2-1 Braga
Dynamo Kiev 4-1 Partizan Belgrade
Copenhagen 2-0 Sheriff Tiraspol
Hoffenheim 1-1 Ludogorets Razgrad
Rijeka 2-0 AC Milan
Slavia Prague 0-1 Astana
Villarreal 0-1 Maccabi Tel Aviv
Young Boys 2-1 Skenderbeu
Fastav Zlin 0-2 Lokomotiv Moscow
Arsenal 6-0 BATE Borisov
Steaua Bucharest 1-2 Lugano
Red Star Belgrade 1-0 Cologne
Zorya Luhansk 0-2 Athletic Bilbao
Vitoria Guimaraes 1-1 Konyaspor
Hapoel Beer Sheva 0-2 Viktoria Plzen
Hertha Berlin 1-1 Ostersunds
Marseille 0-0 Red Bull Salzburg
Real Sociedad 1-3 Zenit St Petersburg
Vardar 1-1 Rosenborg
Vitesse Arnhem 1-0 Nice
Zulte Waregem 3-2 Lazio
Arsenal were at their most confident as Arsene Wenger unsurprisingly fielded a second-string lineup against a woeful BATE Borisov side, who fell by the wayside as the Gunners bolted to a fourth win of the group campaign.
Mathieu Debuchy opened the scoring before Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere got in on the action before the break. A Denis Polyakov own goal soon after the break resumed their rout, Olivier Giroud converting a penalty prior to Mohamed Elneny's superb curler as the rout was completed.
Little should be taken away from Arsenal after such a flattering win, but BATE manager Alyaksandr Yermakovich summarised the losing side's naivety, per James Benge of the Evening Standard:
James Benge @jamesbenge
BATE Borisov boss says Arsenal were "a totally different level. It was very difficult for us. We were not prepared for this match. We wanted to play attacking football, sadly that didn't happen."2017-12-7 22:06:35
Another of England's outfits didn't fare so well as, despite Sam Allardyce getting his second successive win as Everton chief with a 3-0 result at Apollon, he couldn't prevent his side falling out of the contest.
Ademola Lookman scored twice before promising prospect Nikola Vlasic added a third at the death, but it wasn't sufficient to stop the club recording a record-worst finish in this tournament, per OptaJoe:
4 - Despite winning their final game, Everton's points tally was the lowest by an English club in a Europa League group stage (four points) – beating the previous worst set by Wigan Athletic in 2013-14 (five points). Exit.2017-12-7 19:52:28
Just above them in Group E, Atalanta edged Lyon 1-0 to wrap up top spot, and manager Gian Piero Gasperini looked back on a "marvellous experience" after Andrea Petagna's early header was enough to take three points, per Football Italia.
It wasn't all roses for the Serie A sides, though, as Milan were soundly beaten 2-0 in their trip to Croat hosts Rijeka, where the Rossoneri looked particularly stale early on:
0 - AC Milan have failed to fire a single shot on target for the first time in Europa League this season. Absent. #RijekaMilan2017-12-7 19:54:35
Group C was one of the most finely poised heading into Thursday's fixtures, but a 1-1 draw at eliminated Hoffenheim was enough for 10-man Ludogorets to take second behind Braga and move on in the tournament.
Things were also tight in Group F, where Copenhagen glanced their way into the round of 32, beating Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 at home to draw level on points but advance in second place by virtue of their superior head-to-head record.
Czech outfit Fastav Zlin managed to stay level with visitors Lokomotiv Moscow until Zoran Gajic was sent off near the hour mark, receiving two yellow cards in the space of five minutes.
Lokomotiv capitalised with goals from Aleksei Miranchuk and the in-form Jefferson Farfan, and Russian football reporter Artur Petrosyan attested to there being some familiar phases in the next phase:
Artur Petrosyan @arturpetrosyan
Russia 🇷🇺 will have 4 clubs in the @EuropaLeague last 32: Spartak CSKA Zenit Lokomotiv2017-12-7 19:55:29
Zenit St Petersburg were assured of a spot in the next stage regardless of Thursday's result but solidified top spot in Group L with a 3-1 victory at Real Sociedad. Willian Jose equalised from a Aleksandr Erokhin opener before Branislav Ivanovic and Leandro Paredes added two more goals for Zenit in the second half.
La Real weren't the only Spanish side to lose at home, Villarreal submitting to Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0 after already sealing first place in Group A.
That same pool was host to one of the bigger surprises on Matchday 6 as Kazakh champions Astana kept their place in the competition. Football writer Randall Hauk described the antics that took place as they sought to keep a 1-0 lead at Slavia Prague and book their spot in the round of 32:
Randall Hauk @odroku
We're in added time, so naturally the Astana players are all suddenly suffering from cramps & needing attention and/or subs.2017-12-7 19:50:55
Athletic Bilbao did better away from home and scored twice in the second half—through Aritz Aduriz and Raul Garcia—to notch a valuable 2-0 win at Zorya Luhansk. Ostersunds could only draw 1-1 at Hertha Berlin, meaning the Swedes settled for second in Group J while Athletic head through as pool winners.
Belgian outfit Zulte Waregem emerged 3-2 winners over Lazio in a back-and-forth encounter, although it was too little too late as they finished third in Group K. The Eagles topped the billing despite their defeat, while a 1-0 loss at Vitesse Arnhem still saw French club Nice take second.
Red Bull Salzburg and Marseille kept their respective spots first and second in Group I after playing to a bore draw in France, with Konyaspor and Vitoria de Guimaraes slipping out of the competition.