Red Bull Salzburg have reached the last 32 of the UEFA Europa League for the second time in three seasons, and will face Ukrainians Metalist Kharkiv.
With the top two in each of the 12 groups advancing, Salzburg pipped reported suitors of David Beckham, French Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain, on away goals scored in their head-to-heads, meaning they finished second in Group F with 10 points from their six matches to qualify.
With eight teams dropping from the UEFA Champions League group stages to the Europa League’s round of 32, the Austrian side avoided the double-edged pitfall/glamour tie of Manchester United, playing in the Europa League in its new format for the first time ever, and big-spending big-hitters Manchester City – whom Salzburg met in the competition last year before City really hit the big time – who are top of the Premier League with just one defeat this season but misfired in the Champions League. In the event, Porto were drawn against City and Ajax of Amsterdam will welcome United in the most eye-catching ties of the draw.
Instead, Salzburg face Metalist, winners of Group G, who swept aside the Red Bulls' domestic Bundesliga rivals Austria Vienna in the group phase, and should they pass muster there, will face either Rubin Kazan of Russia or Greek side Olympiakos in the last 16.
Things could have been very different for the Red Bulls however, as they fell to an early 2–0 defecit in Wednesday’s Group F match against bottom club Slovan Bratislava, conceding in the third and sixth minutes to make qualification look very unlikely. But Ricardo Moniz’s side didn’t panic, scored a penalty courtesy of Jakob Jantscher on 19 minutes and then drawing level just four minutes later from Leonardo.
The hosts’ Marián Had generously conceded an own goal shortly after the half-time break to give Salzburg a crucial 3–2 away win, to the delight of the loyal 1,000 away followers who'd made the trip to Slovakia.
Meanwhile, rivals PSG did all they could, beating group winners Athletic Bilbao 4–2, but the results from the games PSG and Salzburg had played between them meant the Austrians came out on top and qualify for the next phase for the second time in three seasons.
Red Bull Salzburg begin the next stage of their campaign at their Red Bull Arena home on February 16, 2012.
UEFA Europa League draw in full:
FC Porto v Manchester City FC
AFC Ajax v Manchester United FC
FC Lokomotiv Moskva v Athletic Club
Red Bull Salzburg v FC Metalist Kharkiv
Stoke City FC v Valencia CF
FC Rubin Kazan v Olympiacos CF
AZ Alkmaar v RSC Anderlecht
S.S. Lazio v Club Atlético de Madrid
FC Steaua Bucureşti v FC Twente
FC Viktoria Plzeň v FC Schalke 04
Wisła Kraków v R. Standard de Liège
SC Braga v Beşiktaş JK
Udinese Calcio v PAOK FC
Trabzonspor AŞ v PSV Eindhoven
Hannover 96 v Club Brugge KV
Legia Warszawa v Sporting Clube de Portugal
- More from Red Bull Salzburg at redbulls.com
- Official UEFA Europa League website
- Ball sports on redbull.com