Football Football

Masked Torres lifts Chelsea, Magpies fall


TORRES-KAZANPARIS, France, April 4 – It was a mixed night for England’s trio of contenders in the Europa League on Thursday, with Chelsea winning their quarter-final first leg while Tottenham Hotspur were held to a draw and Newcastle United lost in Portugal.

Chelsea are in a strong position at the halfway stage in their tie against Russian side Rubin Kazan after winning the first leg 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, but Tottenham have work to do following a 2-2 draw with Basel at White Hart Lane.

Newcastle are very much up against it following a 3-1 defeat to Benfica in Lisbon, while Fenerbahce beat Lazio 1-0 in Istanbul in the night’s other game.

Chelsea got off to a fantastic start in west London, opening the scoring 16 minutes in when Fernando Torres — sporting a face mask to protect a broken nose — stabbed in a David Luiz pass.

Victor Moses then finished superbly on the half-volley to double the Blues’ lead just after the half-hour mark.

Bebras Natcho netted a penalty after John Terry was penalised for handball to give the Russians a precious away goal just before half-time, but much-maligned Spanish striker Torres headed in a cross from compatriot Juan Mata 20 minutes from time to give Chelsea an important cushion.

Across London, Spurs endured a much less comfortable evening against the Swiss champions.

Against a side challenging for a top-four place in the Premier League, Basel were a constant threat going forward, and took the lead half an hour in when Valentin Stocker converted the rebound after captain Marco Streller’s initial effort from six yards had struck the post.

The Spurs fans were stunned when Basel doubled their lead four minutes later, Fabian Frei heading in at the back post after Jan Vertonghen had helped on a Stocker corner.

The home side did fight back, with Emmanuel Adebayor reducing the deficit before half-time, sticking out a leg and forcing the ball over the line after a Scott Parker shot had deflected into his path.

Gylfi Sigurdsson then levelled in the 58th minute, his pwerful shot from range deflecting into the net off Fabian Schaer.

The concession of two away goals means Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham team have their work cut out if they are to progress in next week’s second leg, though, and their evening ended on a sour note when Gareth Bale was stretchered off with a serious-looking ankle injury.

Newcastle got off to a terrific start at the Estadio da Luz, taking the lead in the 12th minute when Papiss Cisse turned in a Moussa Sissoko cross, and they almost netted again soon after, Cisse’s shot deflecting off Ezequiel Garay and hitting the post.

Two minutes after that, Benfica were level, Rodrigo reacting quickest to stab home after Tim Krul had beaten out a powerful shot by Oscar Cardozo from the edge of the box.

Cisse hit the post again at the start of the second half on a wet night in Lisbon, but Newcastle only had themselves to blame when they conceded again in the 65th minute.

Davide Santon was short with a pass back to Krul, and Lima pounced to round the ‘keeper and slid the ball into an empty net.

Three minutes later Benfica won a penalty when Steven Taylor handled in the area, and Cardozo scored from 12 yards to give the Portuguese league leaders a 3-1 victory.

Fenerbahce are in a strong position to progress to the last four after a Pierre Webo penalty 12 minutes from the end and a Dirk Kuyt effort in stoppage time saw the Turks beat Lazio 2-0 in Istanbul.