Things are looking good for the English clubs in the UEFA Cup after Everton, Tottenham, and Bolton each won the first legs of their round of 32 ties.
Everton, who was one of only two sides to complete the group stage with maximum points, kept up their winning ways by defeating Norwegian side SK Brann 2-0 in Norway on Wednesday. The Toffees, who are holding on to the final Champions League spot in the Premier League, took a big step towards the final 16 of the UEFA Cup with second-half goals from Leon Osman (59) and Victor Anichebe (88).
After a 2-1 win away to Slavia Prague, Tottenham are in a favorable position despite seeing goalkeeper Radek Cerny give his former club a slight opening with a second-half blunder. The firm of Berbatov (4) and Keane (30) put Spurs in control. But, Slavia were able to get on the scoreboard thanks in part to Cerny, whose mishandling of a long cross allowed David Strihavka a 69th minute tap-in, and may have given Paul Robinson his first laugh in a while, and maybe some false hope to go with it.
Both Everton and Tottenham are at their best at home, especially Spurs, whose scoring proficiency increases 7,000% at White Hart Lane, so barring any unforeseen upsets, both sides are all but set for the round of 16.
Bolton can’t start making plans for the round of 16 just yet, but they will head to Madrid next week with a 1-0 lead over Atletico, and an extra boost in the knowledge that their opponent’s biggest threat won’t be in the lineup.
The match’s key moments happened in the span of a minute, as Argentine striker Sergio Aguero was sent off for spitting, and moments later, the discombobulated Atletico defense gifted Bolton the lead and sent Reebok Stadium into delirium.
First, they couldn’t clear the ball properly after a long ball came into their half. Then, after that little mess allowed Bolton to get a cross into the area, they made another mess of clearing that trouble, giving El Hadji Diouf a chance to fire a shot that skipped by a defender’s outstretched leg and into the net.
While it’s (mostly) smiles for the English sides, Rangers and Aberdeen both face a pretty tense away leg, after both drew at home.
You can read the match report about Aberdeen’s 2-2 draw against Bayern Munich at Pittodrie right here. As for Rangers, on the positive side, they didn’t allow Panathinaikos to score, but on the negative side, they didn’t score either, thanks to an inspired performance by PAO goalkeeper Mario Galinovic.
Their ties were two of the four that finished even, as Galatasaray and Bayer Leverkusen (0-0) and AEK Athens and Getafe (1-1) drew as well.
The other two sides besides Everton and Tottenham to win away from home were Fiorentina (1-0 winners over Rosenborg) and Hamburg SV (3-1 winners over FC Zurich).
For the most part, the sides who just entered the competition exhibited their class to the fullest, as PSV, Marseille, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon, and Benfica all won at home, with Rangers, Slavia Prague, and Rosenborg the only entrants from the Champions League to not pick up victories at home.
Werder Bremen’s 3-0 victory over Braga is pretty noteworthy, considering that things could have gone much, much differently, as the Bundesliga title chasers seemed insistent on giving the Portuguese mid-table side a helping hand.
After taking a fifth minute lead, Werder decided they’d make a game of it by giving away a penalty minutes later. Keeper Tim Wiese saved that one, and as it would happen, he’d have to save another one – and for that matter, himself. After Werder extended their lead shortly before the half-hour, Wiese gave away a second penalty with a foul in the box.
But, just as Wiese gave, he took away, as he saved the second spot-kick, and Bremen wrapped up a win, and for all intents and purposes, a spot in the next round, with a spot-kick of their own in the final minutes.
The second legs will be contested next Thursday, and the winners will play in the round of 16 early next month.
UEFA Cup Round of 32 First-Leg Results
Zenit St. Petersburg 1-0 Villareal
Galatasaray 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
AEK Athens 1-1 Getafe
SK Brann 0-2 Everton
Werder Bremen 3-0 Braga
Marseille 3-0 Spartak Moscow
Anderlecht 2-1 Bordeaux
PSV 2-0 Helsingborg
Rangers 0-0 Panathinaikos
Sporting Lisbon 2-0 FC Basle
Aberdeen 2-2 Bayern Munich
Slavia Prague 1-2 Tottenham
Bolton 1-0 Atletico Madrid
FC Zurich 1-3 Hamburg SV
Rosenborg 0-1 Fiorentina
Benfica 1-0 Nurnberg