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Balotelli, Lukaku spark Merseyside Europa joy

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BALOTELLI-BESIKTASLONDON, February 20- Mario Balotelli’s penalty was the difference as Liverpool won, while Romelu Lukaku scored a hat trick in Everton’s victory and Napoli also enjoyed a big away win as the Europa League resumed with the first legs of last-32 matches on Thursday.

Balotelli came on as a substitute and scored the games only goal in Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Besiktas at Anfield.

Jordan Ibe shone on his European debut and drew the foul from Besiktas’ Ramon in the box in the 84th minute.

With regular penalty taker Steven Gerrard left out of the squad, there was momentary confusion over who would take the penalty. But Balotelli took the ball from captain Jordan Henderson and got goalkeeper Cenk Gonen to go the wrong way to score the only goal of the game.

Lukaku recorded three goals as Everton cruised to a 4-1 victory over Young Boys in Switzerland on Thursday in the Europa League round of 32.

The hosts opened the scoring after 10 minutes through Guillaume Hoarau’s long curler, but after that the game belonged to Lukaku, who equalised in the 24th minute.

Seamus Coleman scored four minutes later to give Everton the lead, and Lukaku took advantage of lax marking to add to his tally on either side of half-time.

Everton will have a comfortable buffer in the second leg, but the Toffees will be without John Stones after he was dismissed on a straight red card for bringing down Hoarau in the second half. Hoarau missed the resulting penalty, and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard was able to keep Young Boys at bay until the final whistle.

Roberto Soldado’s best moment in a Tottenham shirt was quickly followed by one to forget as he unnecessarily gave away the free-kick which allowed Fiorentina to secure a 1-1 draw.

The 26 million-pound striker showed wonderful skill and composure to volley home a Paulinho corner to give Spurs the lead.

But Soldado’s moment of magic was cancelled out by a Jose Maria Basanta strike during a penalty box melee that followed a free-kick Soldado foolishly gave away.

Bas Dost continued his fine scoring form with two goals as Wolfsburg defeated Sporting Lisbon 2-0.

Dost, coming off a four-goal performance in the Bundesliga last weekend, scored in the first minute of the second half, then doubled their advantage to give Wolfsburg an advantage ahead of their trip to Portugal in the second leg.

 

Napoli had little trouble with Trabzonspor, scoring three times in the opening half-hour and winning 4-0 away from home.

 

Henrique, Gonzalo Higuain, Manolo Gabbiadini, provided the early goals, and Duvan Zapata scored in second-half stoppage time to complete the rout.

 

Roma were held to a 1-1 draw by Feyenoord. Gervinho opened the scoring for Roma before Colin Kazim-Richards answered in the second half with a crucial away goal.

 

The build-up was marred by fans of the Dutch visitors clashing with police, injuring several officers in a rampage through the capital city.

 

Substitute Carlos Gurpegui scored a 73rd-minute equaliser to earn Athletic Club a 2-2 draw at Torino.

 

Torino trailed 1-0 after Inaki Williams put the Spanish outfit ahead in the ninth minute, but two goals from Maxi Lopez gave the home side a 2-1 half-time lead.

 

Gurpegui, who entered the pitch in the 58th minute, pulled his team level and almost made it 3-2 but his powerful header hit the crossbar with eight minutes remaining.

 

Hulk gave Zenit St Petersburg the advantage at PSV Eindhoven as his second-half strike saw them take a 1-0 win.

 

The Brazil international found himself in space in the middle of the area in the 64th minute to fire in a simple goal which gave Andre Villas-Boas’ side the upper had ahead of the return leg in Russia.

 

The victory saw Zenit’s 100 percent record in UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League round of 32 ties continue in the first time the two teams had met in the competition.

 

Two goals in the space of six minutes put Dnipro in control of their tie against Olympiakos as they won the first leg 2-0.

 

Jaba Kankava opened the scoring five minutes into the second half and just five minutes later Ruslan Rotan’s free-kick doubled the hosts’ advantage.

 

Olympiakos struggled to create clear chances and left Ukraine without an away goal and with an uphill task facing them in the second leg.

 

Club Brugge put themselves in a commanding position as they won 3-1 in their first leg at AaB.

 

The Belgian side were rarely troubled in Denmark and goals from Mamadou Oulare and Lior Rafaelov and a Kenneth Emil Petersen own goal gave them the most comfortable of cushions ahead of the return fixture.

-By Soccernet.com

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