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Late equaliser helps Hoffenheim qualify for Europa League

COLOGNE: Kerem Demirbay scored in the third minute of injury time to qualify Hoffenheim for European football for the first time with a 1-1 draw at Cologne in the Bundesliga on Friday.

Demirbay’s late strike ensured third-place Hoffen­heim cannot finish any lower than sixth, guaranteeing the side a spot in the Europa League at least next season, while the point may yet prove valuable in their quest for automatic Champions League qualification.

“It wasn’t our best game away from home, but the mentality was there. Now we’re happy,” Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen said.

Cologne forward Yuya Osako’s botched clearance proved costly for his side which had missed several chances to seal the result when Niklas Suele somehow managed to get the ball to Demirbay, who fired into the left corner.

Instead of moving fifth and level with Hertha Berlin, Cologne moved sixth, ahead of Freiburg on goal difference and two points behind Hertha ahead of the rest of the 30th round.

It had looked like Leon Bittencourt was about to do former club Borussia Dortmund a favour with his goal inside the hour-mark when Jonas Hector found him free at the far post.

Third place in the Bundesliga guarantees Champions League participation the following season, while fourth place only secures a playoff for Europe’s premier club competition.

GANSO BRACE HANDS SEVILLA WIN

MADRID: Paulo Henrique Ganso scored twice in his first start in more than three months to help Sevilla beat struggling Granada 2-0 in the La Liga on Friday.

Ganso, the promising Brazilian midfielder who was yet to break through since joining the Spanish club this season, opened the scoring with a shot from inside the area less than five minutes into the match and increased the lead from close range shortly after halftime at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium in Seville.

The victory moved Sevilla level on points with third-place Atletico Madrid, who were playing at Espanyol on Saturday. Third place automatically guarantees a Champions League spot next season, while the fourth-placed team have to go through a playoff.

Granada, winless in eight matches, stayed second-to-last in the 20-team standings, seven points from safety with five matches to go.

It was Granada’s second game with former Arsenal captain Tony Adams at the helm.

It was only the second time Ganso had scored for Sevilla. The other goal had come in a 9-1 rout of fourth-division club Formentera in the Copa del Rey last year.

Ganso hadn’t started since a 3-0 loss to Real Madrid in a Copa del Rey match in January. He has played in only 13 games this season.

The talented playmaker thrived alongside Neymar with Brazilian club Santos, with many in Brazil saying that they had the same potential to succeed in European football.

But Ganso never reached the same stardom as Neymar and remained playing for Brazilian clubs until Sampaoli signed him from Sao Paulo for about 10 million euros ($10.7 million).

Courtesy : Dawn News

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