Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

Benfica sink Tottenham Hotspur while Fiorentina hold Juventus

Benfica's Luisao (L) scores a goal against Tottenham Hotspur during their Europa League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London (Reuters) Benfica's Luisao (L) scores a goal against Tottenham Hotspur during their Europa League soccer match at White Hart Lane in London (Reuters)
Reuters | London | Posted: March 14, 2014 12:14 pm

Mario Gomez dusted off his shooting boots to put Fiorentina in the driving seat with a 1-1 Europa League draw at Juventus while Benfica were too good for Tottenham Hotspur, winning their last-16 first leg 3-1 away on Thursday.

Germany striker Gomez had not scored since returning in February after five months out with a knee injury but tilted the tie in his team’s favour with a 79th-minute strike while Real Betis tore up the form book to win 2-0 at local rivals Sevilla.

Twice winners Porto beat Napoli 1-0 thanks to Jackson Martinez’s superb finish and Helton’s agile goalkeeping. Valencia played for more than an hour with 10 men but still beat Ludogorets 3-0 in Bulgaria.

The goals, however, dried up for the previous round’s big scorers Salzburg who were held to a 0-0 draw at Basel, ending a run of 14 successive wins in all competitions.

Juventus’s clash with Fiorentina was a replay of the 1990 UEFA Cup final and came four days after the two sides met in Serie A.

Juventus, three places and 27 points clear of their domestic rivals, won 1-0 on Sunday and took the lead after three minutes when the ball fell kindly at the feet of Arturo Vidal and he dispatched it powerfully into the net from 10 metres.

Yet their failure to kill off the tie gave hope to Fiorentina who grew in confidence and eventually punished their hosts late on.

Gomez, who tore ligaments in his right knee in September, came off the bench in the 67th minute and made a decisive impact, controlling a lofted pass before shooting through the legs of Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Tottenham were hosting Benfica for the first time since they met in the European Cup semi-final in 1962.

Benfica, who are seven points clear at the top of the Portuguese championship, won that tie and were thoroughly on top when they went ahead after 30 minutes.

Rodrigo raced onto a terrific throughball from Ruben Amorim and picked his spot, curling his finish with his in-step into the far corner.

Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood told his squad they were playing for their futures after their 4-0 Premier League defeat to Chelsea at the weekend but the present looked bleak when Luisao headed home unmarked after 58 minutes.

Christian Eriksen curled in a free kick to reduce the deficit but Luisao struck again, pouncing on a rebound to shoot into the roof of the net from close range.

Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul refused to throw in the towel however.

“Everything is possible in football,” he told ITV. “We will go there to win and see what happens.”

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