Tottenham, Sampdoria among UEFA Cup qualifiers

[UEFA CUP] Empty seats, dead-rubber games, second-string lineups and a clumsy format -- that apogee of sporting pointlessness, the UEFA Cup group stage, is over at last after another year of perennial struggle with public disinterest. In Thursday evening's final round of group games, Tottenham Hotspur, Paris St. Germain, Olympiakos, Stuttgart, Sampdoria and NEC Nijmegen all qualified for the knockout round of 32.
 
In Group A, Paris St. Germain edged through on goal difference thanks to its only win in four games, dispatching already qualified Dutch side FC Twente 4-0, including two goals from Peguy Luyindula. This meant that Racing Santander was eliminated on goal difference, despite beating Manchester City, 3-1.
 
There was only one spot still up for grabs in Group B, and Olympiakos claimed it in style by beating Hertha Berlin 4-0. Benfica could only have made it through had those two teams tied and it had beaten Metalist Kharkov, but Freddy Adu's former team contrived to even mess that up with a 0-1 home defeat, leaving it bottom of the group with just a single point.
 
In Group C, Oguchi Onyewu played through for group winner Standard Liege as it lost, 3-0, at VfB Stuttgart. That win took the German club through, while Sampdoria leapfrogged Sevilla into the third and final qualifying spot thanks to the game's only goal from Argentine defender Jonathan Bottinelli 15 minutes from time.
 
In Group D, Spartak Moscow needed to win by two clear goals at Tottenham Hotspur to progress. At halftime, the Muscovites were 2-0 up thanks to some awful defending that allowed Artyom Dzyuba to score twice. Spurs came back strongly in the second half to clinch the point it needed through goals from Croatian midfielder Luka Modric, his first for the club, and a headed equalizer from Tom Huddlestone. NEC Nijmegen took third place with a 2-0 home win over Udinese, who had already progressed.
 
The draw for the home-and-away round of 32 takes place Friday. The competition resumes Feb. 18.
 
UEFA CUP
Dec. 18
Group A
Racing Santander 3 (Pereira, Serrano, Valera) Manchester City 1 (Caicedo)
Paris St. Germain 4 (Luyindula 2, Sessegnon, Kezman) FC Twente 0
DID NOT PLAY: Schalke
Standings: Manchester City* (7 points), FC Twente* (6), Paris St. Germain* (5), Racing Santander (5), Schalke 04 (4)
 
Group B
Olympiakos 4 (Dudu, Galletti, Torosidis, Diogo) Hertha Berlin 0
Benfica 0 Metalist Kharkov 1 (Rykun)
DID NOT PLAY: Galatasaray
Standings: Metalist Kharkov* (10 points), Galatasaray* (9), Olympiakos* (6), Hertha Berlin (2), Benfica (1)
 
Group C
VfB Stuttgart 3 (Khedira, Hilbert, Marica) Standard Liege 0
Sampdoria 1 (Bottinelli) Sevilla 0
DID NOT PLAY: Partizan Belgrade
Standings: Standard Liege* (9 points), VfB Stuttgart* (7), Sampdoria* (7), Sevilla (6), Partizan Belgrade (0)
 
Group D
NEC 2 (John, van Beukering) Udinese 0
Tottenham 2 (Modric, Huddlestone) Spartak Moscow 2 (Dzyuba 2)
DID NOT PLAY: Dinamo Zagreb
Standings: Udinese* (9 points), Tottenham* (7), NEC* (6), Spartak Moscow (4), Dinamo Zagreb (3)

Dec. 17
Group E
AC Milan 2 (Ambrosini, Pato) Wolfsburg 2 (Zaccardo, Saglik)
Portsmouth 3 (Crouch 2, Hreidarsson) Heerenveen 0
DID NOT PLAY: Braga
Standings: Wolfsburg* (10 points), AC Milan* (8), Braga* (6), Portsmouth (4), Heerenveen (0)
 
Group F
Hamburg 3 (Petric, Olic 2) Aston Villa 1 (Delfouneso)
Ajax Amsterdam 2 (Vertonghen, Suarez PK) Slavia Prague 2 (Cerny, Jarolim)
DID NOT PLAY: MSK Zilina
Standings: Hamburg* (9 points), Ajax* (7), Aston Villa* (6), MSK Zilina (4), Slavia Prague (2)
 
Group G
St Etienne 2 (Ilan 2) Valencia 2 (Morientes, Zigic)
Club Brugge 0 FC Copenhagen 1 (Santin)
DID NOT PLAY: Rosenborg Trondheim
Standings: St Etienne* (8 points), Valencia* (6), FC Copenhagen* (5), Club Brugge (3), Rosenborg (2)
 
Group H
Deportivo La Coruna 1 (Bodipo) AS Nancy 0
Feyenoord 0 Lech Poznan 1 (Djurdjevic)
NOT PLAYING: CSKA Moscow
Standings: CSKA Moscow* (12 points), Deportivo La Coruna* (7), Lech Poznan* (5), Nancy (4), Feyenoord (0)
 
Format: Top three teams from each group qualify for next knockout round, together with the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group phase.

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