Europa League Roundup: Tottenham disappoints at home; Lyon, Valencia take control
Tim Sherwood’s week just got a lot worse. After a weekend drubbing by Chelsea and fallout that saw the Tottenham Hotspur manager question his squad’s commitment, Thursday’s Europa League action dealt Sherwood’s team another blow. Losing 3-1 to Benfica at White Hart Lane, Spurs may be down to the last 90 minutes in their European season.
That time will come next week at the Estadio de Luz. Today, England’s fifth place club dug themselves a potentially inescapable hole, giving up three away goals in the teams’ first Round of 16 leg.
Former Bolton loanee Rodrigo opened the scoring in the 29th minute, with veteran defender Luisãõ adding two goals in the second half. Though Cristian Eriksen’s 64th minute score briefly brought Sherwood’s side within two, Luisão’s second six minutes from time restored Benfica’s edge.
The result may represent a blessing for Tottenham, with the likes of Harry Kane and Kyle Naughton brought into the team ahead of a weekend derby with Arsenal. Having Europa League off the schedule could certainly simplify any lingering desire to finish fourth.
Liverpool’s surge up the Premier League standings means that’s a bit of a pipe dream, perhaps explaining why most of Sherwood’s regulars were in the starting XI. Heading into the game, Europa League was the team’s best chance at silverware this season, a goal they could pursue without worrying about a meaningful slip in the Premier League. Odds are, Spurs will be back in Europa against next year.
After Thursday’s game, that hope of silverware may be done. The team will need to score at least three times in Portugal to account for the away goals edge Benfica has built. Having been outscored 7-1 over the last 180 minutes, it’s unclear Tottenham’s capable of doing that.
- Ludogorets (Bulgaria) 0, Valencia 3 (Spain) - Los Che were up within five minutes through Antonio Barragán but needed a first half penalty save from Diego Alves to maintain that advantage. Goals from Fede Cartabia and Philippe Senderos against 10 men helped Valencia leave Sofia with a decisive edge.
- Porto (Portugal) 1, Napoli (Italy) 0 - Jackson Martínez put the Dragons in front off a second half corner, though Rafa Benítez won’t be too disappointed to get out of Portugal down one.
- Basel (Switzerland) 0, Salzburg (Austria) 0 - The Swiss champions survive after being outshot 15-8 (8-3, shots on target).
- Juventus (Italy) 1, Fiorentina (Italy) 1 - Arturo Vial’s third minute opener was pulled back by Mario Gomez, with the German international scoring in a substitute’s role to send the tie back to Florence even.
- AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) 1, Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia) 0 - A 29th minute penalty converted by U.S. international Aron Johannsson gave last year’s Dutch Cup winners a slight edge before a second leg in Dagestan.
- Sevilla (Spain) 0, Real Betis (Spain) 2 - La Liga’s last place team pulled off the upset thanks to goals on either side of halftime from Baptistão and substitute Sevilla, giving the Verdiblancos a two-goal edge despite seeing only 30 percent of the ball.
- Lyon (France) 4, Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 1 - A surprisingly impressive performance from Lyon saw three assists from Steed Malbranque and goals from Gueïda Fofana (two), Alexandre Lacazette, and Arnold Mvuemba give it the day’s highest goal total.