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Dec 16, 2009

Europa League: Nervy Fulham hold on in Basel

Bobby Zamora continued his hot run of form as Fulham defied plunging temperatures in Basel to secure their place in the knock-out stages of the Europa League.

• Hodgson praise for Zamora

Zamora, tipped last week by manager Roy Hodgson as just the kind of player England will need at the World Cup, capped a classical centre-forward's performance with two goals just before the interval.

Zoltan Gera made it 3-1 with a neat sidefooted finish but Basel, who had earlier profited from a dubious penalty, set up a nervous last few minutes with a late second from Marco Streller.

Alessandro Cerci struck twice as Roma secured top spot by winning away to CSKA Sofia. Cerci, 22, put the Giallorossi ahead on the stroke of half-time before adding his second shortly after the re-start. Substitute Filippo Scardina made it 3-0 a minute from time.

Djibril Cisse struck a late double as Panathinaikos booked their place in the last 32 after rounding off their Group F campaign with a straightforward home victory over Dinamo Bucharest.

Ante Rukavina set the Greens on their way with an opportunistic 55th-minute strike before Cisse netted twice in the last 10 minutes to secure all three points for new Greens coach Nikos Nioplias. Nioplias replaced Henk ten Cate last week, as the Athens club finished second in the section behind group winners Galatasaray.

Sturm Graz finished their woeful campaign on a high with a narrow win over the Turks. There was little riding on the outcome for either club as Gala had already wrapped up the group thanks to a 1-0 victory at home to Panathinaikos two weeks ago. They had also been unbeaten with four wins from five matches until the defeat, which came courtesy of Daniel Beichler's first-half strike.

Heerenveen were eliminated despite a thumping 5-0 home victory over FK Ventspils. Second-half goals from Mika Vayrynen, Viktor Elm, Gerald Sibon (two) and Darryl Janmaat won the game for the hosts, but it proved not to be enough as Hertha Berlin did the necessary against Sporting Lisbon.

Gojko Kacar's second-half goal allowed Hertha to book their ticket despite a lacklustre display against the Group D winners. Kacar scored the game's only goal in the 70th minute as Hertha, the Bundesliga's bottom team, put their domestic woes aside and fended off Heerenveen to reach the knockout stage of the European competition.

Dame N'Doye scored twice as FC Copenhagen also progressed against Sparta Prague. N'Doye, the match-winner in the first Group K contest between the sides, was unmarked as he headed in the opener after 21 minutes before he capitalised on more poor defending to sneak behind the Sparta defence and nod in a diving header after 30 minutes.

Jesper Gronkjaer struck a third from the penalty spot after 54 minutes following a foul on N'Doye and Sparta's night became even worse when Manuel Pamic was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

PSV Eindhoven preserved their unbeaten record in the group stage of the Europa League as they posted a workmanlike 2-0 win at Romanian outfit CFR Cluj.

Ivan Perisic rubber-stamped Club Brugge's place in the round of 32 with a late winner against Toulouse; while Shakhtar Donetsk suffered their first defeat as Partizan Belgrade salvaged some pride after a dismal campaign. Last year's UEFA Cup winners were assured of top spot in Group J heading into the game but coach Mircea Lucescu chose to retain most of his star names ahead of Ukraine's winter break and they would have been keen to end the group stage in style.

Ruben Micael scored two goals and made another against Austria Vienna to lead Nacional to their first victory in the group stage. Brazilian Schumacher gave Austria the lead after 21 minutes, but Ruben Micael equalised in the 23rd minute before Mateus made it 2-1 to Nacional in the 33rd minute. Micael stretched the lead to 3-1 in the 57th minute and Zarko Tomasevic ended all doubts with his goal in the 61st minute. Felipe Lopes joined in with the scoring in the 66th minute.

Last season's UEFA Cup finalists Werder Bremen swept aside Athletic Bilbao with a stunning first-half display to secure top spot in Group L. In the end it proved to be a non-contest, with Bremen, who saw their 23-game unbeaten streak come to an end with a 2-0 defeat to Schalke at the weekend, netting three times in the opening 36 minutes through Claudio Pizarro, Naldo and Markus Rosenberg to complete a comfortable win.

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