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By ESPN Staff

Europe for ADO, top-flight duo survive

ADO Den Haag claimed their place in the Europa League on penalties after FC Groningen's remarkable fightback had threatened to spoil their party, while Excelsior and VVV-Venlo retained their top-flight places in the promotion-relegation play-offs.

Having won the home leg of their play-off final 5-1, the team from The Hague must have fancied their chances of clinching the final European berth on offer via the Eredivisie.

Groningen had other ideas, though, and posted a 5-1 win of their own this afternoon to level it up 6-6 on aggregate.

There was little sign of what was to come at half-time at the Euroborg, Lex Immers having cancelled out Tim Matavz's opener to get the visitors back on level terms.

But Groningen upped their game after the break and three goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half - a Virgil van Dijk brace and one from Leandro Bacuna - got the hosts right back in the tie.

Matavz's penalty two minutes from time, which came just after ADO's Mitchell Pique had been sent off, forced extra time but there were no further goals.

ADO, who finished three points behind Groningen in the regular season, may well have been stunned by Groningen's second-half display but recovered their composure in time for the shootout and edged it 4-3.

Tim Sparv and Aleksandar Radosavljevic missed from 12 yards for Groningen and ADO respectively before two-goal hero Matavz smashed his side's decisive fifth spot-kick against the bar.

In the promotion-relegation play-offs, Excelsior made a better job of defending a 5-1 first-leg advantage, winning 4-2 against Helmond Sport to confirm their Eredivisie status with a 9-3 aggregate triumph.

Daan Bovenberg and Guyon Fernandez each bagged a double after Helmond had threatened a comeback by taking an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Ilja Van Leerdam and Marc Hocher.

VVV-Venlo were 2-1 up from the first leg and made hard work of their clash with FC Zwolle before securing a 2-2 draw to edge it 4-3 overall.

Balazs Toth levelled with a penalty a minute before half-time after Sjoerd Ars had put Zwolle ahead, also from the spot, in the 24th minute.

The second-tier side went 2-1 up just before the hour through Nassir Maachi to make it all square on aggregate, but Ahmed Musa's effort three minutes from time ensured VVV will once again play among Holland's elite next term.

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