By Toby Davis
Tottenham Hotspur’s in-form striker Harry Kane secured a 1-0 win at Qarabag and a place in the Europa League last 32 on Thursday night although last season’s beaten finalists Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk suffered an early exit.
Kane struck in the 78th minute for his ninth goal in his last six games to ensure the Premier League club joined seven other sides in reaching the knockout rounds of Europe’s second-tier competition from Thursday’s early games.
FK Krasnodar, Lazio, St Etienne, Basel, Schalke, Sparta Prague and Athletic Bilbao also booked spots in the next stage with one game to spare on the marathon route to May’s final.
Dnipro made a surprise run to the final last term but their European adventure ended early this time when a 3-1 defeat at Lazio meant they could not finish in the top two in Group G.
Kane suffered a drought when he went eight games without a club goal at the start of the season, but questions about whether the 22-year-old could continue last term’s prolific scoring run have been long-since been silenced.
After Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli earlier hit the woodwork, England international Kane thumped home a header from a corner to move them to 10 points at the top of Group J.
Schalke had needed to win against APOEL Nicosia to guarantee a spot in the next round but had to wait until the 86th minute for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to snatch a 1-0 victory.
Having ended a seven-match winless run in all competitions, Schalke stayed top of Group K, ahead of Sparta Prague who also reached the knockout phase with a 1-0 win over Asteras Tripolis.
The group stage’s most prolific marksman, Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz, scored twice in the final seven minutes to secure a 3-2 comeback win in Augsburg that kept the Spaniards top of Group L and moved them safely into the next round.
Bilbao have flourished with Aduriz scoring six goals in five group games, while Augsburg and Partizan Belgrade meet on the final matchday to decide who joins the Spaniards in the last 32.
Basel reached the knockout stage as Group I winners after they came back from 2-0 down against Fiorentina, managed by the Swiss side’s former boss Paulo Sousa, to draw 2-2.
The Italians, who took a stranglehold with a double from Federico Bernardeschi, had to play for more than an hour with 10 men after Facundo Roncaglia was shown a first-half red card.
Sousa’s Fiorentina now need at least a draw in the final match against Belenenses to make it out of the group stage.
Borussia Dortmund, who lost 1-0 at FK Krasnodar on Thursday, Molde, Napoli and Rapid Vienna had already secured their places in the knockout stage on the previous matchday.
Results from the Europa League on Thursday:
Sparta Prague 1
Asteras Tripolis 0
Rubin Kazan 2
Borussia Dortmund 0
Dinamo Minsk 1
Viktoria Plzen 0
St Etienne 1
Skenderbeu Korce 0
Lokomotiv Moscow 2
Sporting Lisbon 4
Lech Poznan 0
AZ Alkmaar 1
Partizan Belgrade 2
PAOK Salonika 0
Club Brugge 0
Legia Warsaw 1
FC Midtjylland 0
Rapid Vienna 0
Sporting Braga 1
Slovan Liberec 1