2-0 down on aggregate with just over 30 minutes to play, Tottenham Hotspur looked to be heading out of the Europa League on Thursday.
But Spurs’ fighting spirit shone through in a wild second half at White Hart Lane, as Emmanuel Adebayor (who else?) inspired the stunning comeback.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Ukrainian side Dnipro scored just after half time as Roman Zozulya headed home to give Spurs a mountain to climb. But climb it they did, as Christian Eriksen curled in a pinpoint free kick to make it 1-1 on the night, then the pivotal moment came as Dnipro’s goalscorer Zozulya was sent off for a coming together with Jan Vertonghen. Tottenham pounced on that opportunity as Adebayor scored twice in four minutes to turn the tie on its head and put Spurs 3-1 up. Despite a few late chances for the away side that’s how it stayed and Tim Sherwood’s side are through to the last 16 of the Europa League after quite the scare. They will now face Benfica in the last 16, as two of the favorites for the Europa League clash.
Elsewhere the other Premier League team in action was Swansea City, but the Welsh side succumbed to two late strikes against Napoli to crash out of their first-ever Europa League campaign. With the tie poised at 0-0 after an entertaining yet goalless first leg, Swansea went behind in the first half after Lorenzo Insignia opened the scoring. But the Swans fought back as Jonathan de Guzman equalized before half time and with the away goals rule in play, Swansea were heading into the next round.
In the second half Swansea played extremely well and Napoli looked out of ideas until the 78th minute when Argentine international Gonzalo Higuain rifled in a half-chance to put Napoli 2-1 up and break Swansea’s hearts. Late on as the PL club pushed forward to grab the goal that would’ve seen them go through they left Gokhan Inler to tap home the insurance goal. Hard luck on the Swans after a valiant effort against the Serie A giants, as Napoli will now play FC Porto in a mouth-watering tie.
Other notable results saw Juventus cruise through against Trabzonpor, as Juve will face Italian rivals Fiorentina. Spanish rivals Sevilla and Real Betis both made it through and will face each other in the next round and U.S. national team fans can also watch forward Aron Johannsson continue his Europa League journey, as AZ knocked out Slovan Liberec. The big upsets saw Red Bull Salzburg knock out Ajax and Lazio fall to Ludogorets Razgrad.
EUROPA LEAGUE RESULTS – Round of 32
Napoli 3 – 1 Swansea (agg 3-1) Tottenham 3 – 1 FC Dnipro (agg 3-2)
Rubin Kazan 0 – 2 Real Betis (agg 1 – 3)
Basel 3 – 0 Maccabi Tel Aviv (agg 3-0)
Eintracht Frankfurt 3 – 3 FC Porto (Porto win on away goals, agg 5 – 5)
FC Red Bull Salzburg 3 – 1 Ajax (agg 6 – 1)
Ludogorets Razgrad 3 – 3 Lazio (agg 4 – 3)
Sevilla 2 – 1 NK Maribor (agg 4-3)
Shakhtar Donetsk 1 – 2 Viktoria Plzen (agg 2 – 3)
AZ Alkmaar 1 – 1 Slovan Libere (agg 2-1)
Benfica 3 – 0 PAOK Salonika (agg 4-0)
Fiorentina 1 – 1 Esbjerg fB (agg 4-2)
Draw for Europa League Round of 16 – (Ties to be played March 13 & 20)
AZ Alkmaar v Anzhi Makhachkala
Ludogorets Razgrad v Valencia
Porto v Napoli
Lyon v Viktoria Plzen
Sevilla v Real Betis
Tottenham v Benfica
Basel v Salzburg
Juventus v Fiorentina