Europa League qualifying: Stoke, Fulham advance to play-offs

A late own-goal has helped Stoke City to a 1-0 win over Hajduk Split in Europa League qualifying on Thursday.The visitors defended bravely in Split before Hajduk defender Ljubo Milicevic scored an unfortunate 90th-minute own-goal to seal Stoke’s passage to the play-off round with a 2-0 aggregate win.

Chances were few and far between in a tepid first half with Stoke simply happy to keep the partisan home crowd at the Poljud Stadium quiet and Hajduk lacking the quality to break them down.

After the interval the match initially followed largely the same pattern with Hajduk trying to dictate the game in the midfield and Stoke content to sit and try and break down the flanks.

As the half wore on, however, Stoke’s defensive line began to drop deeper and deeper and front men Kenwyne Jones and Jonathan Walters were reduced to the role of spectators as Hajduk repeatedly prodded and probed the visitors’ backline.

Time and again, though, the Potters’ committed and organised defending denied Hajduk space in the final third, and the Croatians were reduced to tame efforts from outside the box.

There was no late rally from the home side, and instead Tony Pulis’ side confirmed their place in the next round with a late winner.

Milicevic got the final touch on Dean Whitehead’s inviting right wing cross, with Ryan Shotton lurking behind the defender.

Stoke’s English Premier League counterparts also enjoyed success, with Fulham also progressing to the play-off round after a 2-0 second-leg victory against RNK Split at Craven Cottage, which saw them win by the same scoreline on aggregate.

Goals to Andy Johnson and Danny Murphy, the latter from the penalty spot, secured the win for Fulham.

Scottish Premier League side Hearts thumped Hungarian outfit Paksi SE 4-1 to win 5-2 on aggregate, while Atletico Madrid won 2-0 at Norwegian side Stromsgodset to progress 4-1 overall.

Other teams to progress were Stade Rennes, Red Bull Salzburg, Sparta Prague, Bursaspor, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Young Boys, AZ Alkmaar, Club Brugge and FC Thun.