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August 8, 2009

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Fulham, Roma advance to Europa League playoff

ENGLISH Premier League Fulham reached the Europa League playoff round on Thursday where it was joined by free-scoring AS Roma and Galatasaray.

Andrew Johnson scored twice to add to Dickson Etuhu's opener as Fulham saw off FK Vetra of Lithuania 3-0 for a 6-0 aggregate win in their third qualifying round, second leg clash at Craven Cottage in London.

"We were good value for our three goals as we were in the first leg," said Fulham coach Roy Hodgson.

"I am pleased with our attitude, pleased with the quality of our play and pleased with our passing."

Galatasaray of Turkey, coached by former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard, crushed Israel's Maccabi Netanya 6-1 for a 10-1 aggregate with Congo striker Shabani Nonda grabbing a hat-trick.

Veteran striker Francesco Totti, who scored twice in the first leg, also claimed a hat-trick as AS Roma beat AA Gent 7-1 in Belgium for a 10-2 aggregate.

Dejan Lekic was another hat-trick star as 1991 European champion Red Star Belgrade overturned a 0-2 first-leg deficit to beat Georgia's Dinamo Tbilisi 5-2 on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.

Lekic completed his hat-trick in the 88th minute, just when 1981 Cup Winners Cup champion Dinamo was in sight of an away goals victory.

In a fiercely-contested tie, where the Georgians had led 4-1 on aggregate at one stage, both sides finished with 10 men.

Scotland suffered a double dose of misery.

Mark McGhee's Aberdeen, humiliated 1-5 at home by Sigma Olomouc in the first leg, slumped to a 0-3 defeat in the return tie in the Czech Republic for an embarrassing 1-8 aggregate exit.

Tomas Janotka, Marek Kascak, with a penalty, and Michal Hubnik scored the goals in the first half.

Steaua Bucharest, the 1986 European champion, defeated Motherwell 3-1 for a 6-1 aggregate win.

There will be no European adventure this season for 37-year-old former Celtic, Manchester United and Barcelona striker Henrik Larsson whose Helsingborgs side lost on penalties to Sarajevo.

Larsson was forced to miss Thursday's tie after breaking a kneecap in the first leg in Sweden.

The 35 third qualifying round winners go into the playoff draw where they will be joined by the 15 losers from the Champions League final qualifiers as well as 26 other leading sides which include the likes of Everton, Aston Villa, Werder Bremen, Valencia, Lazio and Ajax Amsterdam.


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