Torino completes Italian sweep in Europa League
Dec. 11, 2014
ROME (AP) — The entire Italian league stands to benefit after Torino came back to beat nine-man Copenhagen 5-1 Thursday and complete a clean sweep with all four Serie A clubs advancing from the group phase of the Europa League.
Inter Milan, Fiorentina and Napoli had already reached the last 32 and Roma dropped down to the continent's secondary competition by finishing third in its Champions League group.
With Juventus advancing in the Champions League, Italy has six clubs still competing in Europe — the best showing for the Serie A since 2008-09.
In the intervening five years, Italy has dropped from near the top of UEFA's country coefficient rankings to fourth place behind Spain, England and Germany. As a result, Italy can now qualify a maximum of three clubs to the Champions League, whereas the top three countries can land four clubs in the lucrative competition.
With fifth-place Portugal and sixth-place France not far behind Italy, this season's showing could provide Serie A with some much-needed breathing room.
In Group B, Torino finished second to Club Brugge, which edged Helsinki 2-1.
Elsewhere, Dynamo Moscow become the sixth team in competition history to win all six group matches as Aleksei Ionov scored in the 90th minute for a 1-0 success at PSV Eindhoven, which went through second in Group E.
None of the previous five clubs to accomplish the feat of group-stage perfection advanced past the Round of 16.
Defending champion Sevilla advanced with a 1-0 win at home to Rijeka, but had to settle for second place in Group G. Denis Suarez's 20th-minute goal gave the Spaniards victory, but they remained a point behind Feyenoord, which won 3-0 at Standard Liege.
In Group A, Borussia Monchengladbach and Villarreal advanced with wins over Zurich and Apollon Limassol, respectively; Dnipro claimed second in Group F by beating St. Etienne 1-0; and in Group C, Besiktas leapfrogged Tottenham for first with a 1-0 win in Turkey in a match twice delayed by lighting failure.
French club Guingamp reached the knockout phase for the first time with a 2-1 win at Greek side PAOK, as Claudio Beauvue scored both goals for the visitors.
Guingamp finished second to Fiorentina in Group K, even though the Tuscan side lost 2-1 at home to Dinamo Minsk.
In Switzerland, Young Boys beat Sparta Prague 2-0 to overtake the visitors and qualify second to Napoli — which shut out Slovan Bratislava 3-0 — in Group I.
Inter, which had already won Group F, drew 0-0 at Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
Olympiakos, Liverpool, Zenit St. Petersburg, Anderlecht, Ajax, Sporting Lisbon and Athletic Bilbao also dropped down from the Champions League.
Torino hadn't won a match since October — a run of four defeats and three draws — and it wasn't a promising start for the visitors when Daniel Amartey put Copenhagen ahead after just six minutes.
But Josef Martinez leveled on the quarter hour. Then Mikael Antonsson was sent off on the half-hour mark and Mathias Jorgensen saw red 10 minutes later for a foul inside the area.
Former Juventus forward Amauri netted the resulting penalty and then early in the second half, Martinez added another and Matteo Darmian and Gaston Silva were also on target.
"The goal we conceded at the start was a cold shower but we reacted well," Martinez said.
Torino is 17th in Serie A, one spot above the relegation zone.
"We're starting to do what we want and what we're capable of, which until now we've only shown glimpses of," Torino coach Giampiero Ventura said. "Now if the draw gives us a tough opponent, that's more than welcome."
The Round of 32 draw will be held Monday at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland.