Friday 08 March 2013
Tottenham Hotspur were the most impressive English representatives in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday night as they completed a 3-0 home round-of-16 first-leg win over Inter Milan, while Newcastle United drew 0-0 at Anji Makhachkala and Chelsea lost narrowly at Steaua Bucharest.
The irrepressible Gareth Bale scored his eighth goal in 10 matches in all competitions as Tottenham Hotspur made light work of Inter Milan at White Hart Lane.
It took the Welshman just six minutes to get off the mark when he headed Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross past Samir Handanovic, and thereafter Andre Villas-Boas’s side were slicker, quicker and more powerful than the 2010 European club champions.
"It was a great European night for us"
Sigurdsson crowned an effective performance with a poacher’s goal on 18 minutes, after Handanovic had parried Jermain Defoe’s shot, following incisive approach play from Mousa Dembele and Aaron Lennon, and eight minutes into the second half Jan Vertonghen rose to head Bale’s corner powerfully in.
The closest the visitors came to a goal was when Ricardo Alvarez screwed his shot wide after a fine pass by Antonio Cassano just before half-time, but Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel was otherwise untroubled and the Londoners will feel comfortable of reaching the last-eight stage even if they will travel to San Siro without Bale, who is suspended for the second leg after picking up a booking.
“Gareth will be a great miss but we have him clean of cards for the future rounds," said Villas-Boas. "Our big, big task is progressing through the competition because of the prestige and the effect it can have on our season. It was a great European night for us."
Newcastle United had goalkeeper Rob Elliot to thank for ensuring they kept Anji Makhachkala at bay in a goalless affair in Moscow.
"If we can get a win [at Stoke], then I think the mood in our stadium is going to be something that's going to be very difficult for Anji to cope with"
In a match played in sub-zero temperatures and a contest that produced few chances Elliot made two saves either side of the interval from Samuel Eto’o, the pick of them early in the second half when he hooked the Cameroon international’s effort around the post, to prevent the hosts from completing their ninth consecutive home victory in Europe.
However, the injury-depleted Magpies playing without six first-team regulars, will rue passing up the chance to register an away goal when Hatem Ben Arfa, making his first appearance in almost three months on his 26th birthday, raced through on goal to direct his attempted chip straight at goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.
I wouldn't say we are favourites because they have got good counterattacking abilities in the team, but it's going to be a very different game at St James' Park,” said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew. “But we really need to set it up on Sunday [against Stoke City in the Barclays Premier League]. Sunday is something we need to put right.
"If we can get a win there, then I think the mood in our stadium is going to be something that's going to be very difficult for Anji to cope with. We didn't really have to fight the crowd today, and that probably helped us to settle."
Chelsea will have to turn around a first-leg deficit in the return at Stamford Bridge after succumbing to a narrow defeat in Bucharest.
"We are disappointed but we still have the belief we can go through"
In a hard-fought encounter Rafa Benitez’s side paid the price for conceding a penalty awarded for a foul by Ryan Bertrand on Raul Rusescu.
The spot-kick was duly converted on 34 minutes by Rusescu and though Yossi Benayoun and Fernando Torres were denied by smart stops from Ciprian Tatarusanu the Blues were largely subdued.
The visitors' their best chance of the match came seven minutes from time when John Terry’s searching pass set up substitute Marko Marin, whose effort was thwarted at his near post by Tatarusanu.
“We know these ties can be more difficult if you do not score in the away game, so we have to do everything in the home match," said Beniítez, following his side’s 50th match in all competitions this season. "We are disappointed but we still have the belief we can go through.”
Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest (0-1), 9.05pm
Inter Milan v Tottenham Hotspur (0-3), 7pm
Newcastle United v (0-0) Anji Makhachkala, 9.05pm