European cups

Nearly there

IN THE second qualifying round of the Champions League, Hearts, Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbahçe, Steaua Bucharest and Dynamo Zagreb all scored convincing first-leg victories that should see them safely through to the final eliminatory round of the competition, but tiny Cork City has a mountain to climb after losing 1-0 to Red Star Belgrade at home.

Barring a possible place for Hearts in the group phase proper, will be AEK Athens, a not insurmountable obstacle.  Also now in the hunt are the Barclaycard Premiership’s third and fourth placed teams, with Liverpool facing a potentially hazardous two-legged affair against Maccabi Haifa – in the current political climate, the away-leg will have to be played well away from war-torn Israel.  Arsenal does not face an easy task against Dynamo Zagreb either, but should be able to more than make up for any deficit incurred in Croatia back at the team’s own Emirates Stadium. Portugal’s Benfica take on Austria Vienna while Hamburg and Osasuna provide the other quality tie at this early stage.  The games will be played on August 8, 9, 22 and 23.

Irish amateurs, Derry City and Drogheda United, sensationally overcame IFK Gothenburg and HJK Helsinki to advance into the second qualifying round of the UEFA Cup.  Both will do well to now get past Scottish surprise package Gretna and Norwegians IK Start respectively. Newcastle will play Latvian side FK Ventspils and, also joining the fray, are Welsh representatives, Llanelli, drawn against Denmark’s Odense.  All matches are scheduled for August 10 and 24.