Thursday's top Europa League performers

Sports Mole picks out five of the top performers from the final round of group stage games in the Europa League.

The Europa League group stage is complete for another year, with the qualified teams now ready to take on the side who dropped out of the Champions League. There was still plenty to be resolved on the final matchday, with a number of important performances.

Below, Sports Mole considers five of matchday six's top performers, whether they helped their team into the next round or did their best in a poor team effort.


Frankfurt's Marco Russ is congratulated by team mates after scoring his team's second goal against Bordeaux during their Europa League group match on September 19, 2013© AFP
1. Constant Djakpa

Eintracht Frankfurt left-back Constant Djakpa has had a number of good performances so far in the Europa League, but this was arguably his best. While sometimes he can be caught short at the back, he was a dominant force in attack down the left.

The first half lacked much in the way of quality, but one thing that Frankfurt were able to rely on was Djakpa looking for the cross. Although nothing quite happened for him in the first half, he added a goal and assist in the second period in a good 2-0 win.

His assist was brilliant. Driving towards the box, he dummied a cross before then clipping it over to the far post and wrong-footing the defence to give Stephan Schrock an easy header. He then rifled in a free kick to ensure Frankfurt took 15 points from a possible 18.


Spur's Roberto Soldado in action during a friendly match against Espanyol on August 10, 2013© Getty Images
2. Roberto Soldado

Tottenham Hotspur made very short work of Group K, finishing 10 points clear of Anzhi Makhachkala after the six games. Anzhi were their opponents on the final day and they made a mockery of the group with a 4-1 win.

A number of players have impressed for Spurs so far in the tournament, but matchday six belonged to Roberto Soldado, who hit a hat-trick. Before the game he was on a scoring doubt, but you would never have been able to tell as he flicked in a neat header after just seven minutes.

He was then composed with his feet 10 minutes later to slide in a second and while he waited for his third he continued to be dominant in the air and on the ground. His chance came from the spot and he made no mistake to fire himself back into form.


Sevilla's Diego Perotti in action during a friendly match against Manchester United on August 9, 2013© Getty Images
3. Diego Perotti

Sevilla had previously been too good for the other teams in Group H without blowing them away. There was a strong sense that they did not need to overexert themselves in order to get through.

It was the same story in Freiburg for their 2-0 win on the last matchday. The Spanish side were happy to play at a slow pace, although there was one player who became increasingly threatening as the game wore on.

Diego Perotti was a thorn in Freiburg's right-hand side and was seemingly able to cut inside or go down the line at will. His assist was brilliant, as he picked up the ball and got to the byline, but had the intelligence to wait for the run from Vicente Iborra and put it on a plate for him.

He might have scored himself, but his overall performance was the difference between the teams on the night as Sevilla topped the group.


Juan Guillermo Cuadrado of ACF Fiorentina scores his team's first goal past AC Chievo goalkeeper Christian Puggioni to equalise during the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on October 27, 2013© Getty Images
4. Juan Cuadrado

Valencia were not guaranteed top spot in Group E before their 2-0 win over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, but Juan Cuadrado had a huge say in making it so. The two teams were separated by just a point, but after the Argentine had got into the Ukrainian side there were four in it.

He was the biggest threat all night long, but early on it looked as though he would be kept at bay as the Ukrainians took an early lead. After that, he started to come into the game and could have levelled on the half-hour, but his effort was well saved.

It is unlike Cuadrado to give up, however, and his showing turned the game in his side's favour. First he clipped brilliantly to the back post for Joaquin to level, before he slammed in a low strike from distance with just over 10 minutes left to ensure that Viola topped the group.


Zeljko Filipovic of NK Maribor celebrates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa League football match between NK Maribor and Wigan Athletic in Maribor, on December 12, 2013© Getty Images
5. Zalijko Filipovic

Wigan Athletic still had a strong chance of qualification from Group D if they could find a win against Maribor, but Zalijko Filipovic had other ideas as he inspired his team to reach the second round.

Maribor fell behind but levelled up almost immediately as Dejan Mezga tapped in after his penalty was saved, but after the break Filipovic began to run the show from midfield. He was becoming an increasingly important figure, but it still took something spectacular to take the game away from Wigan.

It was beginning to look as though Maribor had had their chances, but Filipovic curled in a superb strike from range with 30 minutes to play and then were able to cling on to take second spot in the group.


Fiorentina's Joaquin celebrates after scoring his team's opening goal against Dnipro during their Europa League group match on December 12, 2013
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