The UEFA Europa League (previously called the UEFA Cup) is an annual association football cup competition organised by UEFA since 1971 for eligible European football clubs. It is the second most prestigious European club football contest after the UEFA Champions League. Clubs qualify for the competition based on their performance in their national leagues and cup competitions.
Previously called the UEFA Cup, the competition has been known as the UEFA Europa League since the 2009–10 season, following a change in format. For UEFA footballing records purposes, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League are considered the same competition, with the change of name being simply a rebranding.
The competition replaced the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup; however, as the competition was not organised by UEFA, for their records purposes it is not considered a continuation of the same tournament. A prime example is Leeds United, who were twice winners of the Fairs Cup, but are not recognised by UEFA as having won any European trophies.
In 1999, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup was abolished and merged with the UEFA Cup. For the 2004–05 competition a group stage was added prior to the knock out stage. The 2009 rebranding included a merge with the UEFA Intertoto Cup, producing an enlarged competition format, with an expanded group stage and changed qualifying criteria. The winner of the UEFA Europa League qualifies for the UEFA Super Cup.
The title has been won by 26 different clubs, 11 of which have won the title more than once. The most successful clubs in the competition are Juventus, Internazionale and Liverpool with three titles apiece.
Hajduk Split's late own-goal secured a 1-0 victory for Stoke in Croatia as they booked their place in the final qualifying round of the Europa League courtesy of a 2-0 aggregate success.
The Potters, who went into the third round second leg with a 1-0 lead from last week's first leg at the Britannia Stadium, put in an impressively controlled display over 90 minutes, Tony Pulis' players seemingly untroubled by the vociferous home supporters at Stadion Poljud.
And the performance was capped in stoppage time as Hajduk defender Ljubo Milicevic put Dean Whitehead's cross into his own net under pressure from Ryan Shotton to make it 1-0 on the night and seal a 2-0 win on aggregate.
Pulis named another strong side for the match, handing a Stoke debut to summer signing Jonathan Woodgate.
The former Tottenham player came into the heart of the Potters defence with Robert Huth switching to full-back to replace Andy Wilkinson, who was not included in the squad.
Rory Delap had not travelled with the group, so Whitehead took his place in midfield in the only other change to team that had started the first leg.
As anticipated, Stoke received a hostile reception from the raucous crowd as the match got under way and they were soon having to deal with a Hajduk attack.
The hosts' coach Krasimir Balakov had promised his team would be firmly on the offensive and in the fifth minute they looked threatening as Marin Tomasov broke into the box.
Woodgate was on hand to guide the ball out for a corner, which Mario Brkljaca then headed over the bar.
The Potters began to settle, though, and Jon Walters found himself in a good position around the quarter-hour mark but could only lift his shot into the body of Milicevic.
Protests that Milicevic had handled were waved away by Italian referee Andrea De Marco, who gave a similar response moments later as Kenwyne Jones was sent sprawling in the area.
Ivan Vukovic then tried his luck from distance, driving the effort off target.
There was a moment of concern for Stoke in the 30th minute when Walters went down clutching his leg after a late challenge from Milicevic.
De Marco booked the Hajduk player while a stretcher came on to the pitch, but Walters was soon back on his feet.
Huth sent an attempt high and wide soon after and Jermaine Pennant delivered a cross into the box which was just beyond Jones' head.
Matthew Etherington was next to put the ball in the danger zone, but goalkeeper Danijel Subasic was alert to grab it before Jones could pounce.
The Potters seemed to be in the ascendancy and, perhaps as a sign of their frustration, Hajduk picked up another yellow card as Srdan Andric brought down Pennant.
Tomasov fired a shot in towards the end of the first half, but Asmir Begovic caught it comfortably.
Hajduk's fans were growing restless and bottles were thrown from the stands soon after the restart when Huth tackled Vukovic by the touchline.
Glenn Whelan struck the ball into Subasic's arms before Vukovic was challenged again, this time by Ryan Shawcross, and had to be substituted for Ahmad Sharbini.
Moments later Anas Sharbini advanced into the box and got a shot away which Shawcross managed to divert behind for a corner.
Whitehead was shown a yellow card in the 63rd minute after clattering Ahmad Sharbini, and Shawcross then headed wide from Pennant's corner.
At the other end, Dinko Trebotic scuffed an effort wide before being taken off for Nikola Saric.
Tomasov saw a free-kick deflect the wrong side of the post off Whelan and then hoisted a shot well wide.
With a little under 15 minutes to go, Pulis hauled off Jones and introduced Salif Diao.
Brkljaca then appeared fortunate to escape punishment for an apparent dive in the box.
After Begovic smothered a Tomasov shot, it was Pennant who received a booking for time-wasting, Pulis almost immediately substituting the winger for Danny Pugh.
Walters then came off for Shotton, who was marking Milicevic when the Hajduk player inadvertently bundled the ball past Subasic at the death.
Palermo failed to reach the final qualifying round of the Europa League after they were edged out by Thun on away goals.
Pablo Gonzalez put the Serie A side ahead four minutes into the first half, but Dario Lezcano's equaliser ensured Swiss club Thun saw off Palermo as the aggregate score finished at 3-3.
Atletico Madrid cruised past Stromsgodset after a 2-0 victory in Norway. Adrian Lopez opened the scoring before a late goal by Jose Antonio Reyes wrapped up the success.
An own goal from Ljubo Milicevic saw Stoke advance at Hajduk Split's expense. The Potters had triumphed in the first leg by a goal to nil, and Milicevic's injury-time mistake notched another 1-0 win to rubber-stamp success.
Fulham are also through to the play-offs following a 2-0 aggregate win over RNK Split. Andrew Johnson broke the deadlock before a penalty from Danny Murphy completed the scalp.
Hearts reached the play-off round after a 4-1 home win against Paks gave them a 5-2 aggregate victory in the third qualifying round tie.
Dinamo advanced courtesy of a 4-3 aggregate victory over Varazdin. Having drawn the first leg 2-2, a 2-1 away triumph in the second leg proved enough for Dinamo.
Club Brugge progressed despite suffering 1-0 second leg loss against Qarabag as the aggregate score read 4-2 in their favour following a convincing first meeting display.
Bursaspor eased into the next phase thanks to a 5-2 aggregate win over Gomel. The Turkish club came from a goal down to claim a 3-1 scalp in their second meeting with Gomel.
Bundesliga side Mainz suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak after they were undone by Gaz Metan. The match went to spot-kicks as the tie finished 2-2 on aggregate. And Gaz Metan held their nerve to win 4-3 on penalties.
Two late goals from Rennes ensured their tie versus Metalurgi Rustavi sealed a 7-2 success for the French club. Julien Feret and substitute Victor Montano grabbed the goals.
FC Red Bull Salzburg sailed into the next round as they beat Senica 3-0 in their second leg encounter, having won the first clash 1-0. Alan helped himself to a brace while Leonardo also got in on the scoring.
AZ Alkmaar disposed of Jablonec courtesy of a 3-1 aggregate win. Charlison Benschop opened the scoring against their Czech oppositon while Luboa Loucka's leveller on the night proved only a consolation.
PAOK made light work of Valerenga - Giorgos Fotakis, Vieirinha and Stefanos Athanasiadis grabbing the goals - while Red Star Belgrade were in seventh heaven as they thumped Ventspils 7-0, winning 9-1 on aggregate.
Elsewhere, Ried saw off Brondby, Maccabi Tel Aviv hammered Zeljeznicar 6-0 while Westerlo were seen off by Young Boys.
St Patrick's saw their Europa League hopes ended after a convincing 3-1 defeat to Karpaty Lviv. The Ukrainian side came to Dublin with a 2-0 win behind them from the first clash and never looked like losing the advantage this evening.
Evan McMillan equalised Sergei Zenjov's opener to level matters on the night after 57 minutes but Ihor Khudobyak and Igor Oschypko netted to secure the win for Karpaty.
Fulham secured safe passage to the Europa League play-off stage after overcoming plucky RNK Split 2-0 at Craven Cottage.
The west Londoners endured a frustrating night in Croatia last week as they struggled to a goalless draw in the third qualifying round first leg but managed to see off the Reds on home soil.
Andrew Johnson's header proved the only goal of a first half in which the hosts dominated, before skipper Danny Murphy put the tie beyond doubt from the spot in a challenging second half.
Goran Milovic, Ante Vitaic and Roman Oblinovic all came close to pulling one back for the visitors in the second period, although Fulham's defence remained resolute to the delight of the vast majority the 17,087 crowd.
After last week's first leg, Jol admitted that the Cottagers struggled to cope with the Croatian side's formation and especially use of wing-backs.
Split started with similar tactics again but Fulham began brightly and almost scored within two minutes when Murphy's low free-kick was met by Damien Duff.
Fulham's dominance of the opening exchanges continued as they searched for the opener, with the returning Clint Dempsey looking particularly dangerous.
It did not take long for the home side's pressure to pay dividend as Johnson lost his marker to head home Duff's inswinging corner in the 19th minute.
Split looked notably disheartened after falling behind and losing a couple of calls to Jol's side, who continued to pen the visitors in their own half.
The pressure almost forced a second goal as Johnson turned provider for Dempsey in the 28th minute.
The 30-year-old striker chased down a seemingly lost ball and cut back for the American, who jinked past a couple of defenders before curling a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
Fulham continued to press and Johnson saw an effort blocked a couple of minutes later, before Murphy burst through and unleashed a low shot that forced goalkeeper Andrija Vukovic into a good save.
After the break, Split looked rejuvenated and came close to equalising through Vitaic's stunning 30-yard free-kick, which dipped over the wall and just wide.
Ivan Katalinic's side continued to press forward in numbers in search of an all-important away goal but a rash challenge by Velimir Vidic seemingly ended the tie.
The Bosnian defender scythed down Johnson as he cut into the box and skipper Murphy tucked away the resulting penalty in the 57th minute.
Johnson thought he had extended the Cottagers' further a minute later after rounding keeper Vukovic to net - but the striker was adjudged offside and then received a yellow card for his remonstrations.
While Fulham looked dangerous on the attack, Split were still looking to net at the other end and Goran Milovic was unfortunate to see a close-range shot ricochet off the bar after connecting Ante Erceg's free-kick.
Shortly after Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was forced to save low to his right after Oblinovic struck a 25-yard drive that threaten to bobble in.
Jol brought on Matthew Briggs and Mousa Dembele in a bid to freshen things up, but Predrag Simic soon found space to turn and launch a shot that Schwarzer did well to palm away.
Substitute Marko Jordan put a header wide in the closing stages, which was punctuated by bad challenges.
Fulham duo Murphy and Briggs received yellow cards in quick succession, before Split's Damir Rasic was handed the same punishment.
The game ended on a lighter note, though, as newboy Pajtim Kasami came close to netting on his home debut with a lovely curling free-kick, which arced just wide just a minute after coming on.
Paulo Sergio steered Hearts into the Europa League play-off with a comprehensive and stylish 4-1 defeat of Hungary's Paks at Tynecastle.
The new Hearts boss saw Ryan Stevenson score twice in 12 first-half minutes before two goals after the break secured the Jambos' passage 5-2 on aggregate.
If Stevenson's first was fortunate, as Paks goalkeeper Norbert Csernyanszki fumbled his 34th-minute header, then the second was deserved as he netted from substitute John Sutton's pass in first-half stoppage time.
Andrew Driver marked his return from injury with a well-worked third after 50 minutes to finish the tie as a contest and Rudi Skacel celebrated his six-month contract extension with an easy fourth.
The rout rendered the advantage of Jamie Hamill's first-leg away goal in the 1-1 draw in Szekesfehervar irrelevant, even though Daniel Bode headed in an 89th-minute consolation.
A first victory of the season, ending an 11-match winless run, saw Hearts progress to tomorrow's 76-team play-off draw alongside Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions Rangers and last season's runners-up Celtic.
It was the result and performance onlooking owner Vladimir Romanov, who has tasked Hearts with winning the SPL this season, would have wanted - but they will not be playing Paks every week.
Two days following his appointment in place of Jim Jefferies, ex-Sporting Lisbon boss Sergio named a team showing two changes from the side which began last Sunday's 1-0 loss to Dundee United, with Driver back from injury and Stevenson called up to start.
Continual fouling by Paks allowed Danny Grainger to find his range at set-pieces, where Hearts were always dangerous.
After Stevenson's near miss from an Ian Black free-kick and the departure of his strike partner Stephen Elliott after 13 minutes, Hearts went in front from Grainger's delivery.
Former Ayr utility man Stevenson rose highest to meet Grainger's inswinging corner six yards out, but Csernyanszki should have done better than the weak left hand which allowed the ball to bounce into the net.
Grainger fired narrowly wide from a free-kick which went under the Paks wall soon after before Istvan Sipeki dragged an effort wide after 45 minutes for the visitors.
The counter-attack saw the hosts go two up as Hearts goalkeeper Marian Kello pumped the ball down the other end. John Sutton, on for Elliott, shaped to shoot before playing a neat pass for Stevenson to net from a narrow angle on the left of the area.
Hamill came on at half-time in place of captain Marius Zaliukas, who apparently was unable to recover from a knock sustained at the end of the first half.
Hearts' reshuffle, with Adrian Mrowiec moving into defence and Hamill lining up in midfield, was almost immediately exposed as Bode dribbled through and was allowed to shoot just wide.
But five minutes into the second half Hearts netted a third goal to all but finish the tie.
Stevenson played the ball into Sutton with his back to goal and the striker laid it off for Driver to net right footed in off the bar.
It was the first time the winger, who has been plagued by injury in recent seasons, has scored since March 2010.
Csernyanszki saved with his legs from David Templeton soon after, before Black headed over from a long Grainger throw-in.
Driver made way for Skacel, who earlier in the day agreed a new deal until the end of January, after 63 minutes before Black curled the ball over from 25 yards as Hearts maintained the pressure.
Laszlo Bartha's snap-shot was then blocked by Grainger as the hosts had to defend and Kello was called into action after Bode raced through, the Slovakian goalkeeper spreading himself to deny the Paks striker.
It was an example Csernyanszki failed to follow moments later, when he palmed Templeton's stinging drive into the centre of the penalty area for Skacel to prod in.
Ryan McGowan tumbled over as he surged into the box, with appeals for a foul waved away, before a Stevenson shot ricocheted off the Hearts full-back and just wide.
Kello was beaten when Bode headed in Tibor Heffler's free-kick, but it was little consolation for Paks as Hearts progressed.
Sligo Rovers' hopes of reaching the Europa League play-off round came to an end as they were knocked out 2-0 on aggregate by Vorskla Poltava.
Sligo had done well in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie last week, holding Vorskla to a goalless draw in Ukraine, but two early goals at The Showgrounds ended the Irish side's European adventure.
There were only 16 minutes on the clock when Serhiy Zakarliuka put Vorskla ahead and just 60 seconds later the visitors made it 2-0 through Pavlo Rebenok, and there was no way back for Sligo after that.
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