AHMED MUSA

Nigeria’s dazzling winger, Ahmed Musa struck a winner for CSKA against Sporting Lisbon while Wayne Rooney grabbed a Manchester United hat-trick in a 4-0 destruction of Club Bruges to send their clubs through to the Champions’ League group stages on Wednesday night.

As the play-offs for Europe’s elite club competition reached their climax, the two clubs were joined by Bayer Leverkusen, BATE Borisov, and Astana in Thursday’s draw for the lucrative group stage.

2010 quarter-finalists CSKA Moscow advanced on 4-3 aggregate after a come-from-behind 3-1 success against Sporting Lisbon to add to their record of seven wins out of seven in Russia this season. Portuguese giants Sporting had taken a 2-1 advantage to Moscow and Teofilo Gutierrez scored an away goal after 36 minutes before a second half double from CSKA’s Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia in the 49th and 72nd minutes left the tie level. Nigerian striker Ahmed Musa got the winner for the Russians five minutes from time as they qualify for the main draw for the third straight season.

Elsewhere, Astana became the first Kazakh team to qualify when they netted a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at APOEL Nicosia for a 2-1 aggregate success and Leverkusen thumped visiting 10-man Lazio 3-0 on the night to go through 3-1.

Serbian midfielder Nemanja Maksimovic grabbed the crucial goal for Astana six minutes from time as Kazakhstan became the 32nd country to be represented in the group stage. BATE of Belarus lost 2-1 at Partizan Belgrade but advanced on away goals after the tie ended 2-2.

Meanwhile, after failing to qualify for last season’s competition for the first time since the 1995-96 season, United are through for the 20th time, equalling the record shared by holders Barcelona, 11-times winners Real Madrid and 2004 champions Porto.

And Wayne Rooney who had not scored in almost 900 minutes before United’s trip to Belgium was the hero of the night, ending his goal drought in spectacular fashion by banging a hat-trick.

The embattled striker netted his 30th Champions League goal in the 20th minute, adding his second four minutes later with a simple tap-in. The Manchester United skipper and striker completed his first treble in Europe since his debut against Fenerbahce in 2004 eight minutes later before Ander Herrera made it 4-0 in the 63rd minute to seal the victory.

“Obviously, I’m delighted to get the goals but it was a massive game for the club,” Rooney declared after his exploits gifted Manchester United a UEFA Group stage qualification.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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