Galatasaray, Young Boys, Braga Head To Champions League Group Stage After Playoff Wins

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Galatasaray hung on to their lead and Young Boys survived having the frame of their goal struck three times but both ended Tuesday back in the Champions League group stage.

Galatasaray defender Angeliño’s deflected free kick in stoppage time sealed a 2-1 win over Molde in the second leg of their qualifying playoff, and a 5-3 aggregate score, minutes after the Norwegian champion had a possible equalizing goal overruled by video review.

Young Boys eventually eased past Maccabi Haifa 3-0, after a scoreless draw in Israel last week, though the Swiss champions rode their luck in the first half.

Braga also booked their place in the 32-team group stage draw Thursday by winning 1-0 at Panathinaikos to complete a 3-1 aggregate score.

Once a Champions League regular, Galatasaray will be back on the elite stage for the first time since 2019 having come through three qualifying rounds.

Mauro Icardi scored for the third straight game, including in the 3-2 win in Norway last week, when he converted a penalty in the seventh minute.

Molde, once the club of a teenaged Erling Haaland, pressed hard in the second half and Eirik Hestad pulled a goal back midway through the second half. Though Veton Berisha put the ball in Galatasaray’s net in the 81st, an offside was spotted on review.

On Thursday, Galatasaray will join Newcastle, Real Sociedad and Union Berlin in an unusually strong group of lowest-ranked teams in seeding pot 4 of the draw.

Young Boys will play in the group stage for the third time in six seasons. They got home wins against Juventus and Manchester United in 2018 and 2021, respectively, though never advanced to the knockout rounds.

The Swiss team took control against Maccabi Haifa when Congolese winger Meschack Elia sent in crosses that led to two goals in four minutes midway through the first half, from Cedric Itten’s header and an own goal by defender Abdoulaye Seck.

The win was secured in the first minute of the second half when Filip Ugrinic’s shot was deflected into the Maccabi net.

Braga’s return to the group stage after an 11-year absence was settled by Portugal international forward Bruma finishing off a counter attack in the 83rd.

Panathinaikos drew a crowd of more than 61,000 by moving to the Olympic Stadium in Athens from their historic though compact Leoforos home.

Galatasaray, Young Boys and Braga are now guaranteed prize money of about €20 million ($22 million) from UEFA, with bonuses for wins and draws in the group stage.

Molde, Maccabi Haifa and Panathinaikos switch across to the second-tier Europa League group stage. Each is now due at least €9 million ($9.7 million) guaranteed from UEFA plus less lucrative bonuses for future results.

Image courtesy of AP
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Madukwe B. Nwabuisi is an accomplished journalist renown for his fearless reporting style and extensive expertise in the field. He is an investigative journalist, who has established himself as a kamikaze reporter.

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