Bayer Leverkusen and VfB Stuttgart capped off their Europa League group stage fixtures with fine results that lifted them to first-placed finishes in their respective groups. Leverkusen managed to knock holders Atletico Madrid out of the tournament with a well-fought 1-1 draw, while Stuttgart, under new management, thumped Odense by a score of 5-1.
Bayer Leverkusen 1 – 1 Atletico Madrid
This result says a lot about the squad depth Bayer Leverkusen has right now. With a makeshift side, they held the holders of the Europa League and consequently knocked them out of the tournament. The game meant little for Bayer Leverkusen who had already guaranteed top spot in their group, so they really do deserve praise for keeping determined and seeing the game through. Patrick Helmes scored the opener on what was a freezing night, and Fran Merida equalized for the visitors with 15 minutes left on the clock. Atletico Madrid had a handful of clear chances but failed to convert them thanks to some sharp defending by Leverkusen. It’s a fine result for the Bundesliga side, who did a good job of keeping their key players fresh for the weekend.
VfB Stuttgart 5 – 1 Odense BK
This is exactly the kind of result Stuttgart fans would have been hoping for from their side. Even though it’s only one game, and one game against much weaker opposition for that matter, it’ll at least give Stuttgart fans something to hope for for the rest of the season. They’ll all jump on the Bruno Labbadia bandwagon, if there is one, and they’ll start think big again. If the squad can start to believe a little, they might finally be able to get their season going. It would really be unbelievable if Labbadia could pull off a top five finish come the end of the season. All in good time! Timo Gebhart opened the scoring, before second-half goals from Christian Gentner, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Ciprian Marica and a Daniel Heogh own-goal just after half-time sealed an emphatic victory for Stuttgart. Peter Utaka scored Odense’s consolation, is it can be called that at all, with 15 mintues left on the clock. Enjoy the highlights!