FC Twente failed to close the gap on second-placed Levante UD as the two teams contested a hard-fought goalless draw in UEFA Europa League Group L.
Twente could afford no further slip-ups after their chastening 3-0 defeat in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago left them four points adrift of the Spanish side. Despite relentless pressure, however, Levante offered a stubborn rearguard and were able to maintain their healthy grip on second place.
The hosts' intentions were clear in the opening exchanges as they opted for a high-tempo approach, which almost paid dividends seven minutes in. Douglas' cushioned header released Luc Castaignos, but the forward eschewed the obvious and took an extra touch, inviting visiting goalkeeper Keylor Navas to smother. A swashbuckling run and deftly curled centre from Willem Janssen then ended in midfielder Robbert Schilder heading wide at the front post as Twente went through the gears.
Levante had suffered defeat in five of their last seven away games and their stubborn quest to avoid another loss made for a cagey opening 45 minutes. Only midfielder Papa Diop broke free from his defensive shackles, stinging the fingertips of Twente goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov with a long-range piledriver on the half-hour mark.
The start of the second half bore an uncanny resemblance to the first. Steven McClaren's charges dictated possession, while Levante held their shape with military-like precision. It took a cunning flick from Castaignos to prise an opening, but Navas was equal to Roberto Rosales' driven effort.
With intricacy proving fruitless, the home side sought a breakthrough via a string of set-piece moves. Their refined approach almost prevailed, as Douglas twice went close from consecutive Dušan Tadić corners. The action proceeded to switch ends at dizzying pace in a frantic finale, and Twente were nearly hit with a sucker punch when substitute Ángel drew a fine reflex from Mihaylov.
© 1998-2014 UEFA. All rights reserved.