Berne: Schalke 04 scored twice after being reduced to 10 men to win 3-2 at PAOK and reach the Champions League group stage on Tuesday and there were dramatic play-off victories for Austria Vienna and Steaua Bucharest.
Austria Vienna, having apparently squandered their chance by conceding three goals at home to Dinamo Zagreb, produced a late rally to go down 2-3 and qualify for the first time while Steaua edged Legia Warsaw on away goals in another topsy-turvy match.
In contrast, Arsenal, as expected, cruised to the group stage for the 16th time in a row, beating Fenerbahce 2-0 at the Emirates with two Aaron Ramsey goals to complete a 5-0 aggregate win, and FC Basel made equally light work of Ludogorets Razgrad.
The Swiss champions, who did the hard work by winning 4-2 in Bulgaria last week, duly won the return 2-0.
The five qualifiers will earn handsome pay-outs as each of the 32 teams in the group stage receive a basic fee of 8.6 million euros plus a million euros for each win and half a million for each draw. They also stand to receive further income from Uefa’s television rights and sponsorship pool.
Schalke, held 1-1 at home by PAOK last week, knew they were in for a tough time in Greece, even though the match was played behind closed doors because of crowd trouble at a Europa League qualifier last year.
Adam Szalai gave Schalke the lead just before halftime but it all went wrong for the Germans when Stefanos Athanasiadis rifled home a 53rd minute equaliser.
Meanwhile, Fenerbahce, along with Ukraine’s Metalist Kharkiv will be unable to compete in the Europa League this season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Wednesday upheld a UEFA-imposed two-year ban from European competition over a match-fixing scandal. (Reuters)