OLIVIER Giroud ended his drought by scoring the only goal to lead Chelsea to a 1-0 win at BATE Borisov on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) that clinched a place in the knockout stage of the Europa League with two group games to spare.
Giroud had not scored for Chelsea for six months but he knows what it's like to net against BATE. Last season, the France forward was on target in both games against the Belarusian champion when he played for London rival Arsenal in Europe's second tier competition.
Arsenal also made it through after a 0-0 home draw against Sporting marred by Danny Welbeck's injury. The England striker was carried off on a stretcher after appearing to sustain a serious ankle problem. He needed to receive oxygen before he was taken to hospital.
Zurich reached the next stage, together with Bayer Leverkusen, after the German side won their encounter 1-0. Eintracht Frankfurt beat Apollon Limassol 3-2 to advance, while Lazio beat Marseille 2-1 to march into the next round and eliminate last year's runner-up.
Dinamo Zagreb was another team to progress to the knockout phase after the fourth round of matches. Ten-man Sevilla won 3-2 at Akhisar thanks to a late penalty, but Anderlecht's hopes of going through are over.
Here's a look at Thursday's action:
Emerson Palmieri crossed from the left in the 53rd minute and Giroud stooped to head in for Chelsea. The France striker was playing against BATE instead of Alvaro Morata, who was rested.
'I'm pleased for him," manager Maurizio Sarri said of Giroud. "He's a very important player for us, very useful for the team, but I know very well that strikers want to score, and so for his confidence it's very important.
"BATE played very well. They were unlucky and could have drawn the match."
The win extended Chelsea's unbeaten streak this season to 17 games, but the London club was given several scares as BATE hit the woodwork three times.
Chelsea tops Group L with a maximum 12 points. Hungary's Vidi is second on six points after a 1-0 victory over PAOK .
Arsenal was held to a 0-0 home draw by Sporting, which had Jeremy Mathieu sent off for a professional foul on substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang three minutes from the end.
Aubameyang, who replaced the injured Welbeck in the 30th minute, missed a string of scoring chances.
"Danny's looked like a serious injury, which is not nice to see," Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "Our thoughts are with him."
Arsenal tops Group E with 10 points, three ahead of Sporting. Qarabag joined Vorskla on three points after winning their match 1-0.
BETIS ON TOP
Spanish midfielder Suso curled in a free kick to salvage a 1-1 draw for seven-time European champion AC Milan at Real Betis, which had taken the lead in the 12th minute through Giovani Lo Celso.
Betis tops Group F on eight points, one ahead of Milan and Olympiacos, which thrashed Dudelange 5-1.
Ever Banega converted a penalty three minutes from time against Akhisar as he grabbed the winner for Sevilla, the most successful club in Europa League history.
Earlier, Nolito and Luis Muriel gave the Spanish club a 2-0 lead, but Elvis Manu started a comeback for Akhisar in the 52nd, four minutes before Sergi Gomez was sent off. Onur Ayik then equalized for the Turkish side after 78.
Sevilla is tied atop Group J on nine points with Russia's Krasnodar, which beat Standard Liege 2-1.
Takumi Minamino's hat trick inspired Salzburg to a 5-2 win at Rosenborg, its fourth straight victory in Group B. Celtic beat Leipzig 2-1 to join the German side on six points.
In Group H, Luka Jovic, Sebastien Haller and Mijat Gacinovic scored as Eintracht made it four wins from four games. Emilio Zelaya netted twice for Apollon, the second time from the penalty spot.
Marco Parolo headed the opening goal for Lazio in first-half injury time and Joaquin Correa beat goalkeeper Yohann Pele 10 minutes into the second before Marseille got one back through Florian Thauvin.
Eintracht has 12 points followed by Lazio on nine. Marseille and Apollon, both on one point, are out.
In Group G, Spartak Moscow beat Rangers 4-3 in a thriller after the Scottish club had led 3-2. Villarreal leads the section with six points after drawing 0-0 at Rapid Vienna. Rangers and Spartak are one point behind.
Anderlecht's campaign came to an end after a 2-0 defeat at Group D rival Fenerbahce. Zagreb advanced from that section after a 3-1 victory over Spartak Trnava.