Tom Pilcher http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher Tom Pilcher's Profile Thu, 11 Apr 2013 07:30:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 United refocus on title assault after City blip http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/uk-soccer-england-idUKBRE93A05420130411?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/04/11/united-refocus-on-title-assault-after-city-blip/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 06:17:03 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1104 LONDON (Reuters) – A chastening home defeat to Manchester City has given Premier League leaders Manchester United all the incentive they need to win against Stoke City on Sunday and move closer to sealing a 20th English league title.

Champions City cut United’s lead to 12 points after Monday’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford, though with seven games remaining the Premier League trophy appears destined to be prised from their grasp by their neighbours.

City manager Roberto Mancini has already conceded the title to United but a fired-up Stoke, dragged into a relegation battle by a dismal run of form, will be desperate to take at least a point from Alex Ferguson’s men in the 1305 GMT kickoff.

If Mancini is already planning for next season, his City players have not quite given up hope that United might still slip up.

“In our dressing room, we think it is mathematically still possible,” said City midfielder James Milner, whose side face Chelsea in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.

“Hopefully we’ve put a bit of doubt in there. It could be a bit of a stumble. If this rocks them, then great,” he added in reference to Monday’s derby victory.

The loss was United’s first in the league since November 17 and ended a run of six games without conceding a goal.

Ferguson promised his side would “have a go” on Sunday and have three wins and a draw from their last four trips since Stoke returned to the top flight.

Stoke, in 15th but only three points above the drop zone, have just one league win this year.

“With the supporters right behind us, the spirit of the club will take us through,” said goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Sunderland sit one place above the drop zone and a highly-charged atmosphere is certain when they head a few miles north to take on bitter rivals Newcastle on Sunday (1100).

HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE

Sunderland are level on 31 points with 18th-placed Wigan Athletic and after a run of nine games without a win, new manager Paolo Di Canio has told his players they have to “fight a war” at St. James’ Park.

“I’m looking forward to the game and every match we’re in now is a cup final,” said defender Danny Rose.

“I’ve heard from the staff and the lads that it’s a hostile atmosphere and I’m looking forward to it. We shouldn’t be in this position but we have to try and forget about that and do our best over the next six games.”

On Saturday (1400) 16th-placed Aston Villa, on 33 points, host Fulham while bottom club Reading host Liverpool and second-last Queens Park Rangers travel to Everton, in what is swiftly becoming the pair’s last chance at a miraculous escape from relegation.

Arsenal can further unhinge Tottenham Hotspur’s pursuit of a top four spot knowing a victory at home to Norwich City (1400) on Saturday would lift them a point above their north London rivals into fourth.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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Soccer-United refocus on title assault after City blip http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/04/11/soccer-england-idUKL3N0CXNCG20130411?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/04/11/soccer-united-refocus-on-title-assault-after-city-blip/#comments Thu, 11 Apr 2013 01:59:54 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1101 LONDON, April 11 (Reuters) – A chastening home defeat to Manchester City has given Premier League leaders Manchester United all the incentive they need to win against Stoke City on Sunday and move closer to sealing a 20th English league title.

Champions City cut United’s lead to 12 points after Monday’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford, though with seven games remaining the Premier League trophy appears destined to be prised from their grasp by their neighbours.

City manager Roberto Mancini has already conceded the title to United but a fired-up Stoke, dragged into a relegation battle by a dismal run of form, will be desperate to take at least a point from Alex Ferguson’s men in the 1305 GMT kickoff.

If Mancini is already planning for next season, his City players have not quite given up hope that United might still slip up.

“In our dressing room, we think it is mathematically still possible,” said City midfielder James Milner, whose side face Chelsea in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.

“Hopefully we’ve put a bit of doubt in there. It could be a bit of a stumble. If this rocks them, then great,” he added in reference to Monday’s derby victory.

The loss was United’s first in the league since Nov. 17 and ended a run of six games without conceding a goal.

Ferguson promised his side would “have a go” on Sunday and have three wins and a draw from their last four trips since Stoke returned to the top flight.

Stoke, in 15th but only three points above the drop zone, have just one league win this year.

“With the supporters right behind us, the spirit of the club will take us through,” said goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Sunderland sit one place above the drop zone and a highly-charged atmosphere is certain when they head a few miles north to take on bitter rivals Newcastle on Sunday (1100).

HOSTILE ATMOSPHERE

Sunderland are level on 31 points with 18th-placed Wigan Athletic and after a run of nine games without a win, new manager Paolo Di Canio has told his players they have to “fight a war” at St. James’ Park.

“I’m looking forward to the game and every match we’re in now is a cup final,” said defender Danny Rose.

“I’ve heard from the staff and the lads that it’s a hostile atmosphere and I’m looking forward to it. We shouldn’t be in this position but we have to try and forget about that and do our best over the next six games.”

On Saturday (1400) 16th-placed Aston Villa, on 33 points, host Fulham while bottom club Reading host Liverpool and second-last Queens Park Rangers travel to Everton, in what is swiftly becoming the pair’s last chance at a miraculous escape from relegation.

Arsenal can further unhinge Tottenham Hotspur’s pursuit of a top four spot knowing a victory at home to Norwich City (1400) on Saturday would lift them a point above their north London rivals into fourth. (Editing by Justin Palmer)

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‘Scared’ a fair assessment after England stop playing http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/27/uk-soccer-world-england-idUKBRE92Q07L20130327?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/27/scared-a-fair-assessment-after-england-stop-playing/#comments Wed, 27 Mar 2013 09:19:19 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1098 LONDON (Reuters) – Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic claimed England were scared ahead of their World Cup Group H clash on Tuesday, and after the visitors “stopped playing” in the 1-1 draw it seems his words were not too out of place.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was called into action on numerous occasions in the second 45 minutes as England, utterly dominant in the first half where they scored early on through Wayne Rooney, buckled under pressure following the break.

“First half, thoroughly in control; second half, we made it hard for ourselves and we had to dig deep,” a less than impressed Hart told Sky Sports News.

England are becoming experts at letting leads slip against ‘lesser’ opposition, evidenced by their 1-1 draws against Montenegro and Poland in their qualifying group.

Captain Steven Gerrard, who said England “stopped playing” after halftime, pleaded with the team to shake off their alarming habit of sitting on a 1-0 lead.

“There was a lot of experience out there and we showed that in the first half — we controlled the game. But the problem is, at 1-0 you’re always vulnerable,” the midfielder told the FA’s website.

“You’ve got to go on and get that second goal to be in complete control and we didn’t do that.”

However Hart, despite his blunt assessment of England’s lopsided performance, said Montenegro had not posed too much of a threat and had been lucky to score through Dejan Damjanovic with 15 minutes remaining.

“It was a scrappy goal. I’d imagine they’ll say it was coming but I think that was the only way they were going to score, with the ball bobbling around and someone being in the right place at the right time.”

The situation is not yet bleak for England who will still be favourites to qualify as group winners come October given they host both group leaders Montenegro and third-placed Poland, who are four points behind with a game in hand.

“It is in our hands because we play Montenegro and Poland at home and we have to go to Ukraine,” said manager Roy Hodgson.

Montenegro, top of the table by two points, can go five clear when they host fourth-placed Ukraine in June. England’s next fixture is at home to Moldova in September.

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Soccer-‘Scared’ a fair assessment after England stop playing http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/27/soccer-world-england-idUKL3N0CJ6TR20130327?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/27/soccer-scared-a-fair-assessment-after-england-stop-playing/#comments Wed, 27 Mar 2013 09:12:59 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1095 LONDON, March 27 (Reuters) – Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic claimed England were scared ahead of their World Cup Group H clash on Tuesday, and after the visitors “stopped playing” in the 1-1 draw it seems his words were not too out of place.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was called into action on numerous occasions in the second 45 minutes as England, utterly dominant in the first half where they scored early on through Wayne Rooney, buckled under pressure following the break.

“First half, thoroughly in control; second half, we made it hard for ourselves and we had to dig deep,” a less than impressed Hart told Sky Sports News.

England are becoming experts at letting leads slip against ‘lesser’ opposition, evidenced by their 1-1 draws against Montenegro and Poland in their qualifying group.

Captain Steven Gerrard, who said England “stopped playing” after halftime, pleaded with the team to shake off their alarming habit of sitting on a 1-0 lead.

“There was a lot of experience out there and we showed that in the first half — we controlled the game. But the problem is, at 1-0 you’re always vulnerable,” the midfielder told the FA’s website.

“You’ve got to go on and get that second goal to be in complete control and we didn’t do that.”

However Hart, despite his blunt assessment of England’s lopsided performance, said Montenegro had not posed too much of a threat and had been lucky to score through Dejan Damjanovic with 15 minutes remaining.

“It was a scrappy goal. I’d imagine they’ll say it was coming but I think that was the only way they were going to score, with the ball bobbling around and someone being in the right place at the right time.”

The situation is not yet bleak for England who will still be favourites to qualify as group winners come October given they host both group leaders Montenegro and third-placed Poland, who are four points behind with a game in hand.

“It is in our hands because we play Montenegro and Poland at home and we have to go to Ukraine,” said manager Roy Hodgson.

Montenegro, top of the table by two points, can go five clear when they host fourth-placed Ukraine in June. England’s next fixture is at home to Moldova in September.

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Chelsea lead English trio into Europa last eight http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/15/uk-soccer-europa-idUKBRE92D18P20130315?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/15/chelsea-lead-english-trio-into-europa-last-eight/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2013 00:47:16 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1090 LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea led a trio of English clubs into the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday after Tottenham Hotspur survived a thrilling Inter Milan fightback to advance on away goals and Newcastle United got a late winner.

Goals from Juan Mata, John Terry and Fernando Torres, who also missed a penalty, put European champions Chelsea through 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate after visiting Steaua Bucharest’s Vlad Chiriches equalised on the stroke of halftime.

Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time to score a vital away goal in their 4-1 second-leg defeat at the San Siro as they scraped past three-times European champions Inter after the nail-biting tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Newcastle United joined their Premier League rivals when Papiss Cisse headed the winning goal against big-spending Anzhi Mackhachkala with the last action of the game to take them through 1-0 after a goalless first leg.

Another wealthy Russian side, 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg, also went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after they had a late penalty saved against the Swiss team, who played the second half with 10 men.

Rubin Kazan fared better than their compatriots as they saw off Levante 2-0 in extra time to end Spanish interest in this season’s competition.

Lazio’s Libor Kozak scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over VfB Stuttgart for a 5-1 aggregate victory as they kept Italian hopes alive with a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Fenerbahce drew 1-1 with Viktoria Plzen to go through 2-1 on aggregate after a narrow first-leg victory in the Czech Republic and former European champions Benfica are also in the last eight thanks to a 3-2 win at Bordeaux for a 4-2 aggregate success.

But it was Inter’s stirring comeback, spoiled by lacklustre Tottenham’s vital away goal, and Chelsea’s second-half display to see off spirited former European champions Steaua that lit up a fascinating night of Europa League action.

Spain striker Torres led the way for Chelsea in a rousing second half by scoring a sublime goal, his second in 19 games, and then having to deal with a bloody nose before playing on and striking a late penalty against the bar.

The way Torres and his team mates battled was typical of Chelsea at present said keeper Petr Cech in the wake of their recovery in an FA Cup sixth round tie at Manchester United.

“We are at the stage where every game is a final,” Cech told ITV. “When it went to 1-1 (against Steaua) we had to score twice but at the weekend we managed to get (back from) a 2-0 deficit at Old Trafford so we believed we would get the goals.

“Fernando was working hard and he took his chance well. It’s a pity the penalty didn’t go in for him but we scored the three goals we needed and we’re through.”

Tottenham were lucky to continue their European quest after they let Inter come back at them following in-form Gareth Bale’s masterclass in the first leg when he scored in a 3-0 win.

EASY WAY

“We don’t do it the easy way… well done lads,” Bale, who was suspended for the Italian trip, wrote on Twitter after Spurs secured a last eight berth by the skin of their teeth.

Inter went into the match after being outplayed in last week’s first leg in London but strikes from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal brought them level on aggregate against a shell-shocked Tottenham side.

However, Adebayor, subjected to racist abuse by Inter fans including monkey chants and the waving of plastic bananas, got a vital goal when he slid the ball past Samir Handanovic in the 96th after Mousa Dembele’s shot was parried by the keeper.

Inter levelled the aggregate score with 10 minutes of extra time remaining when Ricardo Alvarez headed in a Cassano cross but twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs held on to progress.

“We have learned massively in these two ties, against Lyon and Inter, and it’s a great experience for me, the players and the club,” said Spurs manager Andre-Villas Boas.

Asked about the racist abuse directed at Adebayor, he added: “It’s a very sensitive situation. “It was very easy to hear the chanting so I’m sure UEFA will act on it. It’s very difficult for Inter Milan because it has happened before.”

Newcastle’s progress was equally nervy and, despite a numerical advantage when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off after 55 minutes, his fellow Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa hit the bar with a late free kick.

The miss proved costly as Cisse’s headed finish from an inch-perfect Sylvain Marveaux cross sparked wild scenes of celebration at St. James’ Park.

“I think we’ve put out one of the best teams in the competition,” said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

The English teams’ Europa League success contrasts with their failure in the Champions League which will not feature any when the draw is made for both competitions on Friday.

Zenit’s Roman Shirokov saw his 86th minute spot kick saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer as they failed to level the aggregate score at 2-2 after Basel had Marcelo Diaz sent off at the end of the first period for a second yellow.

Axel Witsel got Zenit back into the tie with a close range header on the half-hour but the Swiss side’s 2-0 home win from last week’s first leg, when they scored twice in the last seven minutes, was enough to see them through to the last eight.

“We played a great game and should have won by a much bigger margin,” said disgruntled Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti, who has been under pressure to resign after a string of poor results.

Venezuelan Salomon Rondon and Vladimir Dyadun were on target for Rubin in extra time to keep Russia’s hopes alive in Europe’s second tier competition with a 2-0 aggregate win over Levante, who were making their debut in a continental competition.

(Additional reporting by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow, Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Soccer-Chelsea lead English trio into Europa last eight http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/soccer-europa-idUKL3N0C63LQ20130314?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/14/soccer-chelsea-lead-english-trio-into-europa-last-eight/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 23:37:35 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1092 LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) – Chelsea led a trio of English clubs into the Europa League quarter-finals on Thursday after Tottenham Hotspur survived a thrilling Inter Milan fightback to advance on away goals and Newcastle United got a late winner.

Goals from Juan Mata, John Terry and Fernando Torres, who also missed a penalty, put European champions Chelsea through 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate after visiting Steaua Bucharest’s Vlad Chiriches equalised on the stroke of halftime.

Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time to score a vital away goal in their 4-1 second-leg defeat at the San Siro as they scraped past three-times European champions Inter after the nail-biting tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Newcastle United joined their Premier League rivals when Papiss Cisse headed the winning goal against big-spending Anzhi Mackhachkala with the last action of the game to take them through 1-0 after a goalless first leg.

Another wealthy Russian side, 2008 UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg, also went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after they had a late penalty saved against the Swiss team, who played the second half with 10 men.

Rubin Kazan fared better than their compatriots as they saw off Levante 2-0 in extra time to end Spanish interest in this season’s competition.

Lazio’s Libor Kozak scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over VfB Stuttgart for a 5-1 aggregate victory as they kept Italian hopes alive with a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw.

Fenerbahce drew 1-1 with Viktoria Plzen to go through 2-1 on aggregate after a narrow first-leg victory in the Czech Republic and former Europan champions Benfica are also in the last eight thanks to a 3-2 win at Bordeaux for a 4-2 aggregate success.

But it was Inter’s stirring comeback, spoiled by lacklustre Tottenham’s vital away goal, and Chelsea’s second-half display to see off spirited former European champions Steaua that lit up a fascinating night of Europa League action.

Spain striker Torres led the way for Chelsea in a rousing second half by scoring a sublime goal, his second in 19 games, and then having to deal with a bloody nose before playing on and striking a late penalty against the bar.

The way Torres and his team mates battled was typical of Chelsea at present said keeper Petr Cech in the wake of their recovery in an FA Cup sixth round tie at Manchester United.

“We are at the stage where every game is a final,” Cech told ITV. “When it went to 1-1 (against Steaua) we had to score twice but at the weekend we managed to get (back from) a 2-0 deficit at Old Trafford so we believed we would get the goals.

“Fernando was working hard and he took his chance well. It’s a pity the penalty didn’t go in for him but we scored the three goals we needed and we’re through.”

Tottenham were lucky to continue their European quest after they let Inter come back at them following in-form Gareth Bale’s masterclass in the first leg when he scored in a 3-0 win.

EASY WAY

“We don’t do it the easy way… well done lads,” Bale, who was suspended for the Italian trip, wrote on Twitter after Spurs secured a last eight berth by the skin of their teeth.

Inter went into the match after being outplayed in last week’s first leg in London but strikes from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal brought them level on aggregate against a shell-shocked Tottenham side.

However, Adebayor, who spurned a glorious chance at the end of the first half when Spurs trailed 1-0, got a vital away goal when he slid the ball past Samir Handanovic in the 96th minute after Mousa Dembele’s shot was parried by the keeper.

Inter levelled the aggregate score with 10 minutes of extra time remaining when Ricardo Alvarez headed in a Cassano cross but twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs held on to progress.

“We have learned massively in these two ties, against Lyon and Inter, and it’s a great experience for me, the players and the club,” said Spurs manager Andre-Villas Boas.

Newcastle’s progress was equally nervy and, despite a numerical advantage when Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez was sent off after 55 minutes, his fellow Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa hit the bar with a late free kick.

The miss proved costly as Cisse’s headed finish from an inch-perfect Sylvain Marveaux cross sparked wild scenes of celebration at St. James’ Park.

“I think we’ve put out one of the best teams in the competition,” said Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

The English teams’ Europa League success contrasts with their failure in the Champions League which will not feature any when the draw is made for both competitions on Friday.

Zenit’s Roman Shirokov saw his 86th minute spot kick saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer as they failed to level the aggregate score at 2-2 after Basel had Marcelo Diaz sent off at the end of the first period for a second yellow.

Axel Witsel got Zenit back into the tie with a close range header on the half-hour but the Swiss side’s 2-0 home win from last week’s first leg, when they scored twice in the last seven minutes, was enough to see them through to the last eight.

“We played a great game and should have won by a much bigger margin,” said disgruntled Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti, who has been under pressure to resign after a string of poor results.

Venezuelan Salomon Rondon and Vladimir Dyadun were on target for Rubin in extra time to keep Russia’s hopes alive in Europe’s second tier competition with a 2-0 aggregate win over Levante, who were making their debut in a continental competition. (Additional reporting by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow, Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Soccer-Chelsea and Spurs through to Europa last eight http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/soccer-europa-idUKL3N0C63GM20130314?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/14/soccer-chelsea-and-spurs-through-to-europa-last-eight/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 22:02:21 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1087 LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) – European champions Chelsea reached the Europa League quarter-finals with a 3-1 win over Steaua Bucharest after Tottenham Hotspur survived a thrilling Inter Milan fightback to progress on away goals on Thursday.

Goals from Juan Mata, John Terry and Fernando Torres, who also missed a penalty, put the west London club through 3-2 on aggregate after Steaua levelled on the stroke of halftime at Stamford Bridge.

Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time to score a vital away goal as Spurs were thrashed 4-1 in their second leg at the San Siro but went through against three-times European champions Inter after the nail-biting tie ended 4-4 on aggregate.

Former UEFA Cup winners Zenit St Petersburg went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after they had a late penalty saved against the Swiss team, who played the second half with 10 men.

Fellow Russians Rubin Kazan fared better as they saw off Levante 2-0 in extra time to end Spanish interest in this season’s competition.

Lazio beat VfB Stuttgart 3-1 for a 5-1 aggregate win to seal a place in Friday’s quarter-final draw alongside Fenerbahce, Benfica and Newcastle United who also progressed on Thursday. (Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Spurs scrape through despite 4-1 defeat at Inter http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/uk-soccer-europa-idUKBRE92D18P20130314?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/14/spurs-scrape-through-despite-4-1-defeat-at-inter/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 21:14:00 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1084 LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur survived a stirring Inter Milan fightback to reach the Europa League quarter-finals on away goals when Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time as the Premier League club lost 4-1 in Thursday’s second leg.

Inter went into the match trailing 3-0 after being outplayed in last week’s first leg in London but strikes from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal brought them level on aggregate against a shell-shocked Spurs side.

But Adebayor, who had spurned a glorious chance at the end of the first half when Tottenham trailed 1-0, got a vital away goal when he slid the ball past Samir Handanovic in the 96th minute after Mousa Dembele’s shot was parried by the keeper.

Inter’s Ricardo Alvarez made it 4-4 on aggregate with 10 minutes of extra time remaining at the San Siro when he headed in a Cassano cross but twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs held on.

Zenit St Petersburg went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after missing a late penalty against the Swiss, who played the second half with 10 men.

Roman Shirokov’s 86th minute spot kick was saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer as Russia’s 2008 UEFA Cup winners failed to level the aggregate score at 2-2 after Basel had Marcelo Diaz sent off at the end of the first period.

Axel Witsel got Zenit back into the tie with a close range header on the half-hour but the Swiss side’s 2-0 home win from last week’s first leg, when they scored twice in the last seven minutes, was enough to see them through to the last eight.

Fellow big-spending Russians Rubin Kazan had a better night than Zenit with a battling 2-0 extra-time win over Spaniards Levante after Venezuelan Salomon Rondon scored 10 minutes into the extra period with a precise finish past Keylor Navas.

Vladimir Dyadun wrapped up the victory in the second period of extra time with a breakaway goal as Levante pressed for an equaliser to end Spanish interest in this year’s competition.

(Writing by Tom Pilcher; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Soccer-Spurs scrape through despite 4-1 defeat at Inter http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/14/soccer-europa-idUKL3N0C63AU20130314?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/03/14/soccer-spurs-scrape-through-despite-4-1-defeat-at-inter/#comments Thu, 14 Mar 2013 21:09:03 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1082 LONDON, March 14 (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur survived a stirring Inter Milan fightback to reach the Europa League quarter-finals on away goals when Emmanuel Adebayor pounced in extra time as the Premier League club lost 4-1 in Thursday’s second leg.

Inter went into the match trailing 3-0 after being outplayed in last week’s first leg in London but strikes from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal brought them level on aggregate against a shell-shocked Spurs side.

But Adebayor, who had spurned a glorious chance at the end of the first half when Tottenham trailed 1-0, got a vital away goal when he slid the ball past Samir Handanovic in the 96th minute after Mousa Dembele’s shot was parried by the keeper.

Inter’s Ricardo Alvarez made it 4-4 on aggregate with 10 minutes of extra time remaining st the San Siro when he headed in a Cassano cross but twice UEFA Cup winners Spurs held on.

Zenit St Petersburg went out to Basel 2-1 on aggregate despite a 1-0 win on the night after missing a late penalty against the Swiss, who played the second half with 10 men.

Roman Shirokov’s 86th minute spot kick was saved by Basel keeper Yann Sommer as Russia’s 2008 UEFA Cup winners failed to level the aggregate score at 2-2 after Basel had Marcelo Diaz sent off at the end of the first period.

Axel Witsel got Zenit back into the tie with a close range header on the half-hour but the Swiss side’s 2-0 home win from last week’s first leg, when they scored twice in the last seven minutes, was enough to see them through to the last eight.

Fellow big-spending Russians Rubin Kazan had a better night than Zenit with a battling 2-0 extra-time win over Spaniards Levante after Venezuelan Salomon Rondon scored 10 minutes into the extra period with a precise finish past Keylor Navas.

Vladimir Dyadun wrapped up the victory in the second period of extra time with a breakaway goal as Levante pressed for an equaliser to end Spanish interest in this year’s competition. (Writing by Tom Pilcher; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Chelsea in Europa League to win it, says Terry http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/02/22/uk-soccer-europa-england-idUKBRE91L0MI20130222?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11708 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/2013/02/22/chelsea-in-europa-league-to-win-it-says-terry/#comments Fri, 22 Feb 2013 14:16:10 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/tom-pilcher/?p=1079 LONDON (Reuters) – There is no way European champions Chelsea will ease off in the pursuit of the Europa League crown even if it interferes with their domestic duties, captain John Terry said on Friday.

Chelsea dropped down into the less regarded Europa League after becoming the first reigning European champions to fail to get through the group stage of the Champions League.

Matches are played on a Thursday, putting teams involved at a disadvantage when it comes to weekend action.

Terry, though, said there was only one thought going through his mind during the game against Sparta Prague, which the Londoners won 2-1 on aggregate to reach the last 16 of the competition.

“Qualification was an absolute must. We’re disappointed to be out of the Champions League and watching it on Tuesday and Wednesday night was enough motivation for us to kick on in this one,” the defender told Chelsea’s website (www.chelseafc.com).

“We’re in it to win it and nothing changes from that. After that we’d have a chance with the Super Cup, so still some big competitions to play for.”

In the Premier League, Chelsea can go within a point of second place on Sunday with victory over champions Manchester City.

They could also set up an FA Cup quarter-final against Manchester United on March 10 if they beat second-tier Middlesbrough in five days time.

Either side of the potential United clash, Chelsea will take on former European champions Steaua Bucharest on March 7 and 14 in the Europa League.

‘AN INSPIRATION’

The prospect of a packed schedule does nothing to deter Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas-Boas who also said he would rather be in the Europa League than twiddle his thumbs midweek.

“I don’t think the Europa League is a distraction, I think it’s an inspiration. Results like this give confidence for Inter and the Premier League,” Villas-Boas, whose side will play Inter Milan in the last 16, was quoted as saying by British media.

“We want to continue setting the example in this competition. We think it’s a real example for England,” added the Portuguese, who guided Porto to the Europa League title in 2011, his first season in charge there.

Tottenham are fourth in the league on 48 points and play at West Ham United on Monday.

Also through to the last 16 in the Europa League are Newcastle United, who finished a surprise fifth in the Premier League last season but are struggling domestically and lie 16th in the table, four points above the drop zone.

They face 15th-placed Southampton in the league on Sunday and manager Alan Pardew is hoping the club can transfer their European momentum into the relegation scrap.

“We had some real heroes today and it’s been a great week for us,” said Pardew of the 1-0 win at Metalist Kharkiv.

“We just need to repeat it on Sunday because that will be an important game. It could give us some breathing space in the Premier League.”

Pardew added the return of some players from injury, such as France midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa, would only benefit his side who next face big-spending Russians Anzhi Makhachkala.

“With Ben Arfa coming back and Cheick (Tiote) to add to that side, I really feel as though we can give this competition a good go.”

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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