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Europa League Action

07 Mar 2013 22:32:38

Europa League Action

Toon and Spurs get great results, but Chelsea give Rafael Benitez another sleepless night. Anzhi Makhachkala 0 Newcastle 0Steaua Bucuresti 1 Chelsea 0Tottenham 3 Inter Milan 0Viktoria Plzen 0 Fenerbache 1Stuttgart 0 Lazio 2Basel 2 Zenit St Petersburg 0Benfica 1 Bordeaux 0Levante 0 Rubin Kazan 0

Lazio put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a confident display to beat Stuttgart 2-0 on their own turf.

Stuttgart knew they needed a result at home to have much hope, given the Italians' imposing home form, but barely created a clear opening in slumping to defeat.

Goals in either half from Honorato Ederson and Ogenyi Onazi sealed the win for Lazio, who will now take a commanding advantage back to the Stadio Olimipico where they are unbeaten in 10 European outings.

Benfica will head to the Stade Chaban-Delmas with a one-goal lead after a hard-fought 1-0 Europa League last-16 first leg win over Bordeaux.

An unfortunate own goal from goalkeeper Cedric Carasso was the difference between the sides on Thursday night, as both sides struggled to create opportunities at the Estadio da Luz

Fenerbahce are in a strong position heading into their second leg after an impressive 1-0 victory at Viktoria Plzen.

The Czechs failed to hit their stride and Pierre Webo's late strike was deserved punishment for the home side's lack of attacking intent.

Basle's strong home form in Europe stood up to Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg as two late goals gave them a 2-0 advantage in their Europa League last-16 clash.

Diaz scored in the 82nd minute after both sides had wasted a string of chances, and substitute Alexander Frei scored from the penalty spot deep in stoppage time after Luis Neto had seen red for a foul on Mohamed Salah.

It extends Basle's unbeaten home run in the competition to five matches, dating back to their second group game, while extending a poor run for Zenit which has seen them win only one away match in Europe in 11 attempts.

SPURS CRUSH ITALIANS

Gareth Bale came back to haunt Inter Milan once again as Tottenham romped to a very impressive Europa League win over the Italian giants at White Hart Lane.  Bale grabbed the world's attention when he tore Inter apart in the Champions League.

Andre Villas-Boas warned Inter on Wednesday that the Welshman had improved immeasurably in the two years, four months and five days that had passed since the famous "Taxi for Maicon" night at White Hart Lane - and he was proven right on Thursday night.

Bale nodded home Gylfi Sigurdsson's cross to put Spurs ahead after just five minutes and he set up Jan Vertonghen for the hosts' third after Sigurdsson himself had scored the second.

Bale missed two chances to match the hat-trick he scored in the San Siro two seasons ago, but in the end it did not matter as Spurs completely dominated a poor Inter team seemingly determined to get knocked out of the competition so they can concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League via Serie A.

Although questions will be raised about Bale going to ground too easily again after he was booked for diving, the fact that he will miss next week's return leg will not trouble Villas-Boas, who knows his side are all but guaranteed to be in the last eight of the competition thanks to Thursday night's result.

Bale, who now has 21 goals to his name this term, will take all the plaudits, but there was not one bad performance from a man in white all night. Scott Parker, Sigurdsson, Vertonghen and Mousa Dembele in particular were all outstanding.

Considering three-time Champions League winners Inter are the most recognised name left in the draw, few would bet against Villas-Boas winning his second Europa League this year with Spurs.

All the pre-match hype had understandably been around Bale, but he started poorly. The 23-year-old was teed up by Kyle Walker with barely 90 seconds on the clock, but he completely missed the ball when he swung his right leg at it.

There was nothing amiss about Bale's finish from his next chance, however.

Less than six minutes had gone when Sigurdsson shimmied past his marker and crossed for the Welshman, who beat Esteban Cambiasso to the ball and glanced home past Samir Handanovic.

Bale was in the thick of the action soon after, racing down the right before finding Jermain Defoe in space, but Handanovic saved well from the lively England striker.

Handanovic denied Bale in the 12th minute, but the Spurs man was the centre of controversy two minutes later when he was booked, not for the first time this season, for diving when he went down in the Inter box, earning his third caution of the competition.

Inter could not get in to the game at all, aside from a shot over the bar from Antonio Cassano, recalled to the side after a row with manager Andrea Stramaccioni.

The hosts made their dominance count by adding a second after 17 minutes through Sigurdsson. Handanovic spilled Defoe's shot after he got on the end of Lennon's cross and the Iceland international poked home from close range.

Bale continued to prowl on the edge of the Inter box while Dembele and Parker worked tirelessly in midfield to keep the visitors quiet.

Bale went close to adding a second, as did Sigurdsson, but Ricardo Alvarez then shot wide when he should have done better at the other end.

Stramaccioni brought on striker Rodrigo Palacio at the break and Alvaro Pereira fired wide - but Inter's renaissance was short-lived.

Spurs won a corner in the 52nd minute and Bale whipped over a cross which Vertonghen powered home from eight yards following a huge leap.

Bale went on one of his enterprising runs, holding off three Inter players before letting fly with a shot that crept just wide.

Defoe nearly found the net with a low drive that crept under Handanovic's body but deflected wide.

Bale, Walker and Lennon then galloped forward on the counter, but Defoe held on to the ball when he should have passed.

White Hart Lane fell silent as Palacio sneaked in behind the Spurs defence, but Friedel rushed off his line and saved superbly with his feet.

Spurs peppered the goal in their hunt for a fourth. It never came, but it did not matter. The "Taxi for Inter" chants that rang out around White Hart Lane told the story.

CHELSEA SUFFER ONCE AGAIN

Rafael Benitez's Chelsea suffered a lacklustre defeat to Steaua Bucharest in their Europa League last-16 first-leg clash at the National Arena.  In the first of two games in four days and the Blues' 50th game of a turbulent season, last season's Champions League winners went behind after 34 minutes when Ryan Bertrand was penalised for pulling back Raul Rusescu, who converted the spot-kick.

Just like Sunday's opponents Manchester United, Chelsea warmed up for the FA Cup quarter-final with a European defeat, but at least their rivals were defeated by Real Madrid. The result in the Romanian capital will only serve to increase the pressure on interim manager Benitez.

Chelsea began the season in contention for seven trophies and the Europa League is the unexpected eighth after their embarrassing Champions League group stage exit which prompted Benitez's unpopular appointment.

Two chances of silverware remain, but chief executive Ron Gourlay this week insisted a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League and Champions League football next term is the priority.

It is just as well as now they must beat United and overturn a deficit to Steaua in next week's return to keep their trophy hopes alive.

John Terry would not have expected to be playing a key role in the second-tier continental competition this term, but in Bucharest the captain was brought in as one of five changes to the side which beat West Brom.

Due to his recent fitness travails, it must be questionable if the skipper will start at Old Trafford, when the Blues bid to continue their FA Cup defence.

Terry was an unused substitute in Prague in the last round, something which sparked stories of dissatisfaction which were swiftly quashed before dressing room tensions resurfaced.

Steaua, 12 points clear domestically, had shown their ability by overcoming a first-leg deficit to beat Ajax on penalties and Chelsea needed to start better than in the previous round.

An expectant partisan crowd made Benitez feel at home, jeering every time Chelsea had possession as the hosts refused to be intimidated.

Scarcely did they have reason to boo as the hosts enjoyed far superior territory and possession, including three corners in the first 15 minutes and a tame shot wide from the impressive Alexandru Chipciu.

The Blues sat deep and were attempting to play on the counter-attack, with Oscar through the middle, Hazard on the left and Yossi Benayoun on the right behind lone front man Fernando Torres. However, they struggled to string three passes together on a bumpy pitch.

At one point Torres - targeted by a laser pen in the first half - latched on to Petr Cech's long clearance on the right flank, skipped by his marker on the byline, before tackling himself as he prepared to cross to his arriving team-mates.

Chelsea's first corner came after 24 minutes - with Branislav Ivanovic heading Frank Lampard's set-piece wide - and they threatened little in the 10 minutes that followed before going behind.

Left-back Iasmin Latovlevici, earmarked as a dangerman by Benitez on the eve of the match, crossed with the outside of his right foot towards Rusescu, whose attempts to reach the ball were thwarted by a pull from Bertrand.

Referee Sergey Karasev booked the left-back, playing in place of Ashley Cole, and Rusescu sent the resulting spot-kick under Cech.

The Blues were roused into action and had a chance for an equaliser within five minutes following neat interplay between Benayoun and Hazard, but the Israeli's shot was turned around the post by Ciprian Tatarusanu.

The goalkeeper saved a Torres effort on the turn and John Obi Mikel had to be alert to stop Chipciu on the counter, with the Blues exposed.

Time and again the hosts troubled the Blues early in the second period, with David Luiz and Terry forced into some last-ditch interceptions.

A lofted Lampard pass would not drop for Torres in the area, before Juan Mata replaced Benayoun with Chelsea in desperate need of a spark.

Hazard volleyed over after a hopeful Lampard cross fell to him at the back post before the ineffective Belgian was replaced by Marko Marin, the only forward option remaining on the Blues bench.

Tatarusanu saved from Marin after he cut inside on to his right foot and Luiz fired a 30-yard free-kick over soon after.

Terry's brief role as an auxiliary striker ended when he committed a foul challenging the goalkeeper - and he finished the contest on the defensive.

Source: Newcastle United Mad


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