After the dust had settled on this week's Champions League football, there was the small business of the Europa League, which got back to business on Thursday night as the round of 32 got underway, with some significant results.
Inter 2-0 CFR Cluj
Rodrigo Palacio netted both goals for Inter, however celebrations around the San Siro were muted as star striker Diego Milito suffered a serious knee injury that means he will miss the rest of the season. Palacio came on to replace the Argentine and grabbed a brace for the hosts, who were largely untroubled by their Romanian opponents controlling the game from start to finish.
Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 Liverpool
The Russian champions emerged from their Winter hibernation to beat Liverpool 2-0 in the first leg at home. After a first half that saw chances for both teams to go ahead, Zenit’s big money Brazilian import; Hulk, broke the deadlock with an unstoppable left footed long range drive leaving Pepe Reina helpless.
Brendan Rodger’s side began to fade as the match progressed, and on 72 minutes substitute Sergei Semak doubled Zenit’s advantage with a simple tap in after some lapse defending from Liverpool.
The loss compounded what has been a miserable week for the English side, coming off a 2-0 home to West Brom in the league, that set back their European football aspirations for next season.
Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Benfica
Leverkusen were the better side on the day, creating enough chances for a win, but it was the Portuguese visitors who grabbed the goal through Oscar Cardoza giving them a priceless away goal. Sidney Sam had a chance to level the tie late on, but his effort was cleared off the line as Benfica went back home with an important win.
Newcastle United 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv
The game may have ended goalless, but not for lack of attacking football by either team. Newcastle and Metalist, two sides known for their fluent attacking football, played out an entertaining draw at St. James’ Park. Having sold their star attacking midfielder Taison to Shakhtar in the winter break, Metalist lacked their usual menace in the final third. Instead it was their veteran keeper Olexander Goryainov who had a superb game, keeping the hosts at bay repelling efforts from Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sissoko as the game went on. Alan Pardew while disappointed that the Magpies failed to gain an advantage from the home leg, would be happy that his side didn’t concede an away goal.
Atletico Madrid 0-2 Rubin Kazan
The upset of the night came in Madrid as defending champions Atletico were beaten at home by 10 man Rubin Kazan, leave them with a mammoth task in the return leg in Russia.
Both teams were unbeaten in this year’s competition coming into the game, Rubin took an early lead in the 6th minute through Gokdeniz Karadeniz after a spill from Atletico keeper Sergio Assenjo. Rubin captain Roman Sharonov was sent off for a 2nd yellow close to half-time, after which Rubin closed their ranks and looked to defend their lead.
Atletico couldn’t muster any breakthroughs though and in injury time, Rubin inflicted further misery on the defending champions, as they broke at pace from an Atletico corner with keeper Assenjo having gone up for the corner leaving the goal unmarked. Pablo Orbaiz cooly slotted home to the joy of the Russian side. It was Atletico’s first home defeat of the season and their first European home defeat since 2010.
Ajax 2-0 Steaua Bucharest
Ricardo van RhijnThe Dutch champions took control of their round of 32 tie with a measured performance at home. Rebounding from the disappointment of being eliminated from the Champions League, Ajax took the lead on 28 minutes through defender Toby Aldeirweireld. Shortly after half-time, Ricardo van Rhijn made it 2-0 to the hosts with a composed finish. With the win, Ajax arrested a damaging run of 4 losses in their 5 previous European home games.
Anzhi Makhachkala 3-1 Hannover 96
Odil AhmedovMbark BoussoufaHannover stunned the big spending Russian side early with a Szabolcs Huszti goal. But Samuel Eto’o pulled them back level 11 minutes before half-time after good work from new boy Willian as he burst down the right to cross it back for the Cameroon striker. Odil Ahmedov and Mbark Boussoufa added further goals in the second-half to give Guus Hiddink’s men a comfortable win.
Sparta Prague 0-1 Chelsea
Having suffered the ignominy of becoming the first Holders of the Champions League to be dumped out in the Group stages, Chelsea came away from Prague with a valuable away win thanks to Oscar’s goal. The Brazilian, who came on as a sub, scored within 33 seconds of his arrival after exchanging passes with Eden Hazard scored with a neat finish, handing the advantage to the Londoners, who until then had struggled to break down a compact Sparta side.
Borussia Monchengladbach 3-3 Lazio
The most entertaining game came in Germany as Lazio held Borussia Monchengladbach to a 3-3 draw scoring three priceless away goals in the process. Monchengladbach were the more threatening of the two sides and took the lead as Martin Stranzl converted the first of three penalties that the Germans earned during the game. Lazio, missing injured striker Miroslav Klose, leveled through Sergio Floccari.
Five minutes later, Borussia sitting deeper fell behnd as Libor Kozak put Lazio ahead 2-1. The hosts were handed a second penalty, and a numerical advantage as Andre Dias saw red, but Stranzl’s effort this time was saved by Federico Marchetti. Thorben Marx then made no mistake with Borussia’s thrid penalty to make it 2-2. With three minutes left in regulation time, Juan Arango’s marvelous free-kick from long range looked to have won the game, but Kozak grabbed his second and Lazio’s third in the dying seconds, to leave the visitors with the advantage going into the return leg.
Tottenham 2-1 Lyon
The hottest player in the Premier League, Gareth Bale, stretched his goal scoring exploits into Europe as his brace led Tottenham to a 2-1 home win over French side Lyon. The Welshman dispatched two freekicks in added time of each half into the Lyon goal to deny the visitors a share of the spoils. 19-year-old left back Samuel Umtiti’s thunderous volley pulled Lyon back in the game early in the second half, but Bale, had other ideas as he capped the night with a splendid free-kick to seal the deal for Tottenham.
Napoli 0-3 Viktoria Plzen
Another major upset came in Naples, where Napoli were humbled by a spirited Viktoria Plzen side. The Czechs managed to silence the big guns of Napoli scoring three times past Morgan de Sanctis. Strikes from Vladimir Darida, Frantisek Rajtoral, and Stanislav Tecl, mean Plzen have one foot in the next round as Napoli try and ponder how to recover from this major setback.
Here are the other results from yesterday’s games.
BATE Borisov 0-0 Fenerbahce
Levante 3-0 Olympiacos
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 Bordeaux
Stuttgart 1-1 Genk
Basel 2-0 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
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