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English Premiership

Liverpool, Spurs secure last 32 berths

PARIS, France December 7 – Liverpool and Tottenham progressed to the Europa League knockout phase after the closing batch of group games on Thursday to join fellow Premier League sides Newcastle and Champions League cast-offs Chelsea.

Liverpool made the last 32 on the strength of a 1-0 win at Udinese while Spurs ensured their Europa League adventure continued with a 3-1 defeat of Panathinaikos.

The three remaining knockout stage tickets on the table were claimed by Steaua Bucharest and Vfb Stuttgart from Group E, and Basel from Group G.

Jordan Henderson scored the decisive goal to fire five-time European champions Liverpool into the next round.

Brendan Rodgers’ side ended up topping Group A, ahead of already qualified Anzhi Makhachkala, beaten 3-1 by Young Boys – with this trio all finishing on 10 points.

Liverpool turned up in Italy with their destiny in their own hands – knowing a win would be sufficient irrespective of the outcome of the other tie between Anzhi and Young Boys.

They began boldly and got the decisive goal in the 23rd minute.

Stewart Downing’s corner from the left was headed on by Luis Suarez to Suso who in turn laid it back to Henderson who drilled a low ball through the Udinese defence and the legs of their keeper Daniele Padelli.

With Young Boys having taken the lead over Russian big-spenders Anzhi in Switzerland Liverpool endured a nervy second half, aware that if they conceded they would be eliminated.

Udinese eased Liverpool’s task when they went down to 10 men following a second booking for Giovanni Pasquale and the Anfield side held on.
© AFP Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Jermain Defoe (R) and Panathinaikos’s Greek defender Konstantinos Triantafyllopoulos
© AFP Ian Kington

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“I thought we were fantastic tonight,” said Rodgers.

“We were in a difficult group with good teams – teams with good Champions League experience and one of the richest teams (Anzhi) in the world.

“But the mentality of the team was very strong and our desire and belief was very strong. We won and that is good for our future.”

Emmanuel Adebayor gave Spurs a 29th-minute lead at White Hart Lane, the Togo striker running into Clint Dempsey’s deft pass to slot the ball side-footed past Panathinaikos keeper Orestis Karnezis.

After Jermain Defoe had struck the woodwork the Greeks drew level via Zeca’s header nine minutes after the interval.

Spurs, missing Welsh wizard Gareth Bale, hit back hard, bagging a 75th minute second when Dempsey’s header off Kyle Walker’s freekick hit the crossbar and bounced in off Karnezis’s back for an own goal, before in-form Defoe rounded off their night in style.

That left Spurs securing the runners-up spot in Group J behind Lazio, 4-1 winners at Slovenian side Maribor.

Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas told ITV: “We knew at 1-0 it wasn’t enough. We played really well, had lots of opportunities. In the end there was a little anxiety but we managed to get a result that was fair.”

Newcastle travelled to Bordeaux with qualification already in the bag but Alan Pardew’s men missed out on denying the French side top spot in Group D after a 2-0 defeat.

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Elsewhere Czech side Viktoria Plzen beat Atletico Madrid 1-0 to deny the defending champions top spot in Group B.

The Group G Sporting Lisbon v Videoton game was held over until Friday due to a waterlogged pitch but the result is academic with Basel sealing the runners-up spot after a 0-0 draw with group leaders Genk.

The top two teams from each of the 12 first round groups are joined by the eight sides dropping down from the Champions League, featuring for the first time ever the defending European champions in Chelsea.

The Blues’ presence adds spice to a competition which UEFA is considering scrapping in favour of an extension to the Champions League format later this decade.

The two-legged last 32 round gets underway in mid-February with the draw held later this month.

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