By Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Wolverhampton Wanderers and Braga played out a thrilling 3-3 draw as they booked their places in the Europa League knockout stage with a game to spare along with AZ Alkmaar, Vfl Wolfsburg and Gent after the early group games on Thursday.
Wolves were pegged back by Braga after taking a 3-1 halftime lead on a poor pitch in the Portuguese rain but both sides qualified from Group K as Besiktas, who were already out of contention, ended Slovan Bratislava’s hopes with a 2-1 win.
Ten-man Alkmaar had substitute Ferdy Druijf to thank for two late goals as they recovered to draw 2-2 at home to Partizan Belgrade in Group L and join group leaders Manchester United, whose second-string side lost 2-1 at Astana, in the last 32.
Wout Weghorst’s penalty put Wolfsburg into the knockout round as they claimed a 1-0 win against Ukrainian side Oleksandriya and were joined by Group I leaders Gent, who secured a 0-0 draw at French side Saint Etienne.
AS Roma boosted their hopes of qualifying from Group J by winning 3-0 at Istanbul Basaksehir with first-half goals from Jordan Veretout, Justin Kluivert and Eden Dzeko, while Borussia Moenchendgladbach went top with a 1-0 win at Wolfsberger AC.
In Group G, Porto grabbed a lifeline with a 2-1 away win over Swiss side Young Boys to put themselves back in contention, while Scottish side Rangers moved into first place on eight points with a gritty 2-2 draw at Feyenoord.
Already-qualified Espanyol missed the chance to secure top spot in Group H as they drew 2-2 away to Ferencvaros, and Russian side CSKA saw their chances of progressing evaporate as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Ludogorets in Moscow.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Ken Ferris)