Abuja, Dec. 8, 2017 (TNE) Former European Cup winners Red Star Belgrade survived the winter break in European competition for the first time in 26 years after a 1-0 home win over Cologne on Thursday sent them into the Europa League knockout stages.
Red Star, who won Europe’s elite club competition in 1991 and reached the later stages the following season, finished second in Group H behind Arsenal who eased to a 6-0 rout of Belarus champions BATE Borisov.
More than a quarter of a century of European failure which went hand-in-hand with Red Star’s financial decay ended in front of a capacity 52,000 crowd in the Rajko Mitic stadium after forward Slavoljub Srnic struck a 22nd-minute winner.
Srnic beat Cologne keeper Timo Horn with a crisp shot from 10 metres after midfielder Nenad Krsticic released Milan Rodic with a defence-splitting pass and the left back squared it into the heart of the penalty box.
Roared on by their frenetic faithful on a cold evening, Red Star held on in the second half as the visitors piled on the pressure and the joyous home fans set off a plethora of fireworks after the final whistle.
The match was played under tight security amid fears of violence after 5 000 Cologne fans arrived in the Serbian capital but was devoid of crowd trouble, notwithstanding a flurry of flares lit by both sets of supporters.
In other UEFA Europa League matches also played on Thursday, Jack Wilshere scored his first goal since May 2015 as Arsenal wrapped up their Europa League Group H campaign with a comfortable 6-0 win over Bate Borisov.
The Gunners had already secured top spot in the penultimate round of matches and went ahead with an angled finish from defender Mathieu Debuchy, before Theo Walcott, Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Mohamed Elneny completed the rout.
Also, Ademola Lookman scored twice as a weakened Everton team beat Apollon Limassol 3-0 to end their failed Europa League campaign with their only win.
The victory meant Everton did not finish bottom of the group, overtaking winless Apollon, and avoided becoming the first English team to not win a Europa League group game.