While Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC struck at the death, Liverpool FC and holders Club Atlético de Madrid fell just short and AFC Ajax went out in historic fashion.
Tottenham Hotspur FC and Chelsea FC secured last-gasp victories in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties, but Liverpool FC and holders Club Atlético de Madrid gave themselves too much to do.
Tottenham were forced to rely on Gareth Bale a fortnight ago, but this time Mousa Dembélé was their late saviour, firing in a last-minute strike to earn a 1-1 draw on the night and a 3-2 aggregate win against Olympique Lyonnais. Spurs’ Premier League colleagues Liverpool came close to a remarkable fightback against FC Zenit St Petersburg, yet could score only three of the four they required, including two Luis Suárez free-kicks, and lost on away goals.
There is sure to be a new name on the UEFA Europa League trophy this season following the elimination of two-time winners Atlético. Diego Simeone’s side trailed 2-0 after last week and although Falcao gave them hope with his 31st UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League goal – taking him into second outright in the all-time scorers list – Rubin hung on.
FC Internazionale Milano and FC Viktoria Plzeň, meanwhile, share the distinction of biggest aggregate victors, wrapping up 5-0 triumphs over CFR 1907 Cluj and SSC Napoli respectively. Plzeň’s Czech counterparts AC Sparta Praha took UEFA Champions League holders Chelsea FC to the brink of extra time, but ultimately missed out to Eden Hazard’s added-time effort.
The Londoners will face FC Steaua Bucureşti in the last 16 after the Romanian team ended AFC Ajax’s dream of appearing in the final at their own Amsterdam ArenA. Steaua clawed back a 2-0 first-leg deficit, their second goal a splendid Vlad Chiricheş strike, and won through on penalties after extra time. It was the first ever UEFA Europa League shoot-out in the knockout phase of the competition.
Elsewhere, a solitary Shola Ameobi spot kick settled matters at FC Metalist Kharkiv, Newcastle United FC advancing courtesy of their first European away success in six attempts. They go on to play Guus Hiddink’s FC Anji Makhachkala, who survived a scare against Hannover 96 to progress 4-2 on aggregate.
Round of 16 draw (ties to be played 7 and 14 March) FC Viktoria Plzeň v Fenerbahçe SK SL Benfica v FC Girondins de Bordeaux FC Anji Makhachkala v Newcastle United FC VfB Stuttgart v S.S. Lazio Tottenham Hotspur FC v FC Internazionale Milano Levante UD v FC Rubin Kazan FC Basel 1893 v FC Zenit St Petersburg FC Steaua Bucureşti v Chelsea FC