Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle scrape home in Europa League
After Champions League exits, three English clubs restore Premier League pride in Europe
EDITOR'S NOTE 12.30PM: The draw the Europa League quarter-finals was made on Friday. Chelsea face Russian side Rubin Kazan with the first leg in London on 4 April. Tottenham have been drawn against FC Basel and also have home advantage in the first leg, and Newcastle are away in the first leg of their tie with Portguese side Benfica.
A DAY after the last English team was knocked out of the Champions League all three Premier League representatives in this season's Europa League competition made it through to the quarter-finals stage, suggesting that reports of the demise of English club football have been greatly exaggerated.
But Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea all made heavy weather of their passage into the last eight, and Tottenham needed extra-time to squeeze past Inter Milan after throwing away their three-goal lead from the first-leg in a thriller at the San Siro.
The draw for the quarter finals will be made today with the possibility of an all-English quarter final on the cards. And for all the talk of German resurgence in Europe, Fox Sport columnist Jonathan Wilson points out that "for those minded to care about such things, England stretched its lead over Germany in the Uefa coefficient table to 4.206 points".
Spurs appeared to be the team with the easiest task going into Thursday night's games. They had won the first leg against Inter Milan 3-0 at White Hart Lane and simply needed to avoid a collapse in Italy. But Inter had other ideas and were aided by some strange tactics from Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas, who adopted a surprisingly attacking formation.
Antonio Cassano gave the home fans hope that they could turn the match around with a headed goal in the first half. Rodrigo Palacio made it two early in the second half and a William Gallas own goal after 75 minutes drew the tie level. In a frantic final few minutes both sides had chances to win the game, but could not find the net.
In the first period of extra time Emmanuel Adebayor poked home to register a crucial away goal and give Spurs the lead once again. Ricardo Alvarez scored for Inter to make it 4-1 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate, but Spurs held on to go through on away goals.
However, the game was marred by allegations of racism. "Striker Emmanuel Adebayor and his team-mates were the victims of abuse by Inter fans waving an inflatable banana," reported the Daily Mail, and afterwards there were calls for the Italians to be punished.
Newcastle finally got the better of mega-rich Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala when Papiss Cisse broke the deadlock in injury time, after 180 minutes without a goal. The first leg on the banks of the Caspian Sea had ended 0-0 and it looked as though the same scoreline was beckoning at St James's Park until the Senegalese international headed home a cross from Sylvain Marveaux three minutes into stoppage time.
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea overcame a spirited Steaua Bucharest side who had won the first leg in Romania 1-0. Juan Mata levelled the tie in the first half, but Vlad Chiriches stabbed the ball home after a goalmouth scramble just before the break to give the visitors an away goal and make it 1-1 on the night.
Chelsea responded in the second half and John Terry made it 2-1 with a powerful header. But Chelsea still needed another goal, and it came from an unlikely source - Fernando Torres, who scored his second goal in 20 games to make it 3-1 on the night.
The Spaniard was in the thick of it after that. He was left with a bloody nose after going to ground in the box and getting an accidental boot in the face, and with five minutes remaining conspired to miss a penalty after Eden Hazard was fouled in the area.
As usual with Chelsea, there was a negative to go with the positive. Victory "condemns them to frantic cramming for the end of the campaign", notes The Guardian. "The FA Cup replay against Manchester United on 1 April [means] Chelsea must contest six matches in 16 days after next week's international break."