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Stalemate between Athletic and Sparta

Thursday 6 December 2012 23.20 CET
Fernando Llorente of Athletic Club (L) and Pavel Kadeřábek of AC Sparta Praha compete for the ball

Athletic Club and AC Sparta Praha played out a scoreless draw in a game of few chances in their concluding UEFA Europa League Group I fixture.

Athletic advanced to the round of 32 as section winners during their run to the final a year ago, they but failed to reach those heights this time around and were already out of Europe prior to matchday six. Sparta, meanwhile, were guaranteed second place in the section before to their trip to Bilbao.

Last season's runners-up were nonetheless keen to give their supporters some cheer as they attacked their opponents in the early stages, Iker Muniain going close with a curling shot from inside the area that flew narrowly wide.

Their place in the draw on 20 December assured, Sparta started to relax and conjured the best half of the chance when Tomáš Zápotočný sent Jiří Skalák clean through only for the forward to thump his shot against the crossbar.

Seeking to end his team's run of three European games without a win on the road, Skalák again went close after the restart when racing through on the right. However, the 20-year-old's subsequent effort arced away from goalkeeper Raúl's left-hand post.

Athletic's Ismael López then tried a snap-shot that dropped wide, while Erik Morán went even closer with a strike from distance that bent narrowly off target.

That proved the game's concluding effort and, as Athletic's players left to the applause of supporters reminiscing on last season's efforts, Sparta must have been hoping they can now produce their own exciting run in the knockout stages.

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