PARIS, November 3 – Tottenham Hotspur, Benfica and Valencia relaunched their respective bids for a place in the lucrative last 16 of the Champions League with resounding wins in the fourth round of group games on Tuesday.Spurs, who staged a remarkable comeback a fortnight ago in a 4-3 defeat away to Inter Milan, outclassed the defending champions 3-1 at White Hart Lane with another fine display of attacking football inspired by Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Benfica still sit third in Group B but took a big step towards the knockout stage with a 4-3 victory over Lyon.
Valencia moved up to second place in Group C after a 3-0 romp over Rangers as the Scottish champions failed to break their unwanted hoodoo of never having won a European fixture in Spain.
Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by FC Copenhagen, the Danes frustrating the aims of the Spanish league giants who remained top of Group D and on course for the last 16.
After four rounds of group games, no team has yet qualified for the knockout stage of the competition where teams play each other home and away in a bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Manchester United, however, had reason to claim the bragging rights Tuesday as they virtually qualified thanks to a 3-0 rout of Bursaspor.
The gulf in class between Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and the Turkish competition debutants was evident in a display which saw goals come from Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe.
While defeat ended the hosts’ slim hopes, United now lead Group C by three points from Valencia with two games remaining and need only a point from Rangers in their next match to go through.
Ferguson said Fletcher’s goal early in the second half had proved decisive.
"From that point on we were basically in control of the match," Ferguson told Sky Sports. "They had a couple of half chances and you can never be sure. But the second goal killed the match."
Spurs’ fans meanwhile were treated to one of the most memorable nights in the club’s history as Bale again proved the inspiration.
Although Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko got the goals, it was Bale who took centre-stage with a truely spell-binding display.
An 80th minute goal from Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o had only a faint whiff of a consolation. The Premier League club are now top of Group A — ahead of Inter on goal difference — and look well set to reach the knockout stages.
Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: "Gareth was outstanding. No disrespects to the right-back Maicon, but he has given him a torrid time. It was amazing to see.
"It was an oustanding performance – one of the great nights that the fans would have seen at White Hart Lane I would imagine. It was a pleasure to be part of it."
With Lyon struggling badly in the French first division, coach Claude Puel has hung on to his job thanks only to his team’s displays in Europe.
The French champions from 2002-2008 needed only a point to qualify for the next round but fluffed their lines badly with a "naive" approach, according to Puel, which was quickly punished by Portuguese champions Benfica.
Brazilian Alan Kardec opened the scoring for Benfica after 20 minutes, with Portuguese international Fabio Coentrao grabbing the first of two goals just after the half hour.
Javi Garcia lit up the Stadium of Light to give the hosts a 3-0 lead at the interval, and a fourth came from Coentrao on 67 minutes.
Yoann Gourcuff, Bafetembi Gomis and Maxime Gonalon all scored one apiece as Lyon launched an unlikely conmeback in the final 15 minutes.
"We showed a certain naivety in allowing them to go 4-0 up," admitted Puel.
"However, I really liked the way we showed character in keeping our nerve and sticking to our gameplan and coming back as we did. It showed real team spirit."
Lyon are still top of group B with a two-point lead on Schalke, who had a scoreless draw away to Hapoel Tel-Aviv, however Benfica, who are in third only one point adrift of the Germans, will be looking ahead with optimism.
Valencia meanwhile had Spain forward Roberto Soldado to thank as his brace set up a 3-0 romp over Rangers, with Tino Costa adding a late third to inflict a first defeat of the season on Walter Smith’s side.
"I am happy with the goals and an important Champions League win for us," said Soldado, scoring his first Champions League goals for the club.
"This (playing in the Champions League) is one of the big reasons I signed for Valencia."