Friday 22 February 2013
Three Premier League teams made it through to the Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Europa League as Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle edged narrow aggregate victories but Liverpool were knocked out by Zenit St Petersburg despite a valiant 3-1 second-leg win at Anfield.
Tottenham Hotspur can look forward to a last-16 encounter with Inter Milan but they left it late to squeeze through to the next stage at Lyon.
"Individual players make a difference and Mousa certainly made the difference"
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, Lyon scored through Maxime Gonalons' 17th-minute header to earn the Ligue 1 side an aggregate lead, and after Lewis Holtby struck the post it seemed the north Londoners were destined for a premature exit from the competition. But Spurs were spared in the very last minute of the match when Mousa Dembele eluded the challenge of Clement Grenier and beat Remy Vercoutre with a long-range strike.
"In the second half we were the better team," said manager Andre Villas-Boas. "We created some chances and we were rewarded with the second goal in the end. Individual players make a difference and Mousa certainly made the difference.
"If you look at the number of chances Lyon had over the two legs it would not have been fair if they had gone through."
Chelsea also left it late to secure their progress into the next stage as Eden Hazard struck in the second minute of added time to sink Sparta Prague.
As extra time beckoned the substitute drilled a fierce strike past Tomas Vaclik to level the match on the night and earn his side a slender aggregate victory.
"The game did not go according to the script at all"
Though the Blues began the match with a 1-0 lead from the first leg, which they might have extended had Fernando Torres not passed up two presentable chances to score, that advantage was wiped out on 17 minutes when David Lafata fired past Petr Cech from eight yards following a quickly taken free-kick.
Thereafter Torres missed again with a flying header, Juan Mata and John Terry were denied by Vaclik and Ramires hit the post, while as the game wore on the visitors increasingly threatened, with Vaclav Kadlec twice going close.
But with under a minute of added time remaining Hazard broke through to secure a last-16 meeting with Steaua Bucharest.
"The game did not go according to the script at all," said Cech. "Everyone wrote Sparta off but I said before the match that if they managed to score a goal it would be very interesting. We missed chances in the second half and with that came a growing possibility for Sparta to take the game into extra time.
"In the end they missed it by 20 seconds. It was very cruel to concede from the very last shot of the match but with the chances we had I think we deserved to score in the end."
Newcastle were indebted to the excellence of their goalkeeper Tim Krul as they earned a narrow win at Metalist Kharkiv.
The Dutch goalkeeper made a succession of saves to preserve his side's 1-0 lead after Shola Ameobi had given the Magpies the lead on the night and on aggregate from the penalty spot.
"We had some real heroes today and it's been a great week for us,"
The penalty was awarded for a foul by goalkeeper Olexandr Goryainov on Moussa Sissoko on 64 minutes and Shola Ameobi kept his cool to convert from the spot.
Newcastle had struggled to convert possession into chances despite Papiss Cisse, Sissoko and Ameobi all going close but once ahead, Alan Pardew's charges found themselves coming increasingly under fire from the Ukrainian outfit.
But Krul turned in an excellent display, denying substitute Willian when clean through on goal, and saving twice from Jonathan Cristaldo within seconds before thwarting Willian for a second time to guarantee a round of 16 meeting with Anji Makhachkala.
"We had some real heroes today and it's been a great week for us," said Pardew, who is already looking forward to his side's Barclays Premier League tie against Southampton on Sunday. "We just need to repeat it on Sunday because that will be an important game.
“It could give us some breathing space in the Premier League, so we need to recover quickly. There will be changes for Sunday and hopefully we will get a result."
Liverpool came from behind to complete a rousing 3-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg at Anfield but fell agonisingly short of reaching the next stage.
"I’m very proud of the club and the players even though we lost the tie. They showed why they’re part of the world’s greatest football family"
Ultimately the Reds, trailing 2-0 from the first leg, were left with too much to do after Hulk capitalised on an underhit pass by Jamie Carragher - making his 150th appearance in UEFA competition - to extend the Russian side's advantage on 19 minutes.
Faced with the herculean task of scoring four goals in order to go through, Liverpool responded gamely, equalising on the night through a Luis Suarez's free-kick and then, urged on by deafening home support, scoring shortly before half-time through Joe Allen.
On 59 minutes Suarez, a constant thorn in Zenit's side, won another free-kick and then curled it spectacularly into the top corner from 20 yards out to leave his side in need of just one more goal to progress.
But although Jonjo Shelvey fired wide with a hurried snapshot in the 75th minute and Steven Gerrard's bouncing volley was saved, Zenit held on for a narrow win on the away-goals rule.
"I thought we were incredible," said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "Obviously two down from the first leg and to concede again you might think the tie was over. I think we showed our quality.
"We got three goals, totally dominated and controlled the game and should have had a penalty. We lost the battle but in terms of the war going forward we are very much looking forward to that. Overall we were fantastic.
"I'm very proud of the club and the players even though we lost the tie. They showed why they’re part of the world’s greatest football family. They could not have done any more. Our season is not finished and won't be until the final whistle against QPR on the final day."
Chelsea 1-1 (2-1 agg) Sparta Prague
Liverpool 3-1 (3-3a) Zenit St Petersburg
Metalist Kharkiv 0-1 (0-1 agg) Newcastle
Lyon 1-1 (2-3 agg) Tottenham Hotspur
Anji Makhachkala v Newcastle United
Steaua Bucharest v Chelsea
Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan
Ties to be played 7 and 14 March