Three teams have secured their places in the UEFA Champions League group stage after winning their playoff matches on Tuesday. Galatasaray, Young Boys, and Braga will join the 29 other teams in the draw for the group stage, which will take place on Thursday.
Galatasaray edges out Molde with late goal
Galatasaray, the Turkish champion, held on to its lead and defeated Molde, the Norwegian champion, 2-1 in the second leg of their playoff at Istanbul. The aggregate score was 5-3 in favor of Galatasaray, which will return to the Champions League group stage for the first time since 2019.
Galatasaray took an early lead in the seventh minute when Mauro Icardi converted a penalty kick. The Argentine striker scored for the third consecutive game, including in the 3-2 win in Norway last week. Molde pressed hard in the second half and reduced the gap in the 67th minute when Eirik Hestad scored from close range. However, Galatasaray sealed the victory in stoppage time when Angelino’s free kick took a deflection and went past the goalkeeper.
Molde had a chance to equalize in the 81st minute when Veton Berisha put the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed by video review for offside. Galatasaray celebrated with the trophy after the final whistle and will join Newcastle United, Real Sociedad, and Union Berlin in pot 4 of the draw.
Young Boys survives Maccabi Haifa’s onslaught
Young Boys, the Swiss champion, survived having the frame of its goal struck three times but managed to beat Maccabi Haifa, the Israeli champion, 3-0 in the second leg of their playoff at Bern. The first leg in Israel ended in a goalless draw, so Young Boys advanced with a 3-0 aggregate score.
Young Boys took control of the game in the first half when Congolese winger Meschack Elia sent in crosses that led to two goals in four minutes. Cedric Itten headed in the opener in the 24th minute and Abdoulaye Seck scored an own goal in the 28th minute. Maccabi Haifa hit the post twice and the crossbar once before halftime but could not find a way past Young Boys goalkeeper David von Ballmoos.
Young Boys added a third goal in the 71st minute when Filip Ugrinic scored from a rebound after Itten’s shot was saved. Young Boys will play in the Champions League group stage for the third time in six seasons. It has previously beaten Juventus and Manchester United at home but never advanced to the knockout rounds.
Braga cruises past Panathinaikos with away win
Braga, the Portuguese runner-up, cruised past Panathinaikos, the Greek runner-up, 1-0 in the second leg of their playoff at Athens. The aggregate score was 3-1 in favor of Braga, which will make its debut in the Champions League group stage.
Braga scored the only goal of the game in the 38th minute when Ricardo Horta volleyed in a cross from Lucas Piazon. Panathinaikos tried to mount a comeback but could not break through Braga’s defense. Braga goalkeeper Matheus Magalhaes made some crucial saves to keep a clean sheet.
Braga will join Porto and Sporting Lisbon as the third Portuguese team in the group stage. It will be placed in pot 3 of the draw along with Ajax, RB Leipzig, Atalanta, Zenit St. Petersburg, Salzburg, Sevilla, and Benfica.