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Europa League Roundup: Tottenham disappoints at home; Lyon, Valencia take control

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Tim Sherwood’s week just got a lot worse. After a weekend drubbing by Chelsea and fallout that saw the Tottenham Hotspur manager question his squad’s commitment, Thursday’s Europa League action dealt Sherwood’s team another blow. Losing 3-1 to Benfica at White Hart Lane, Spurs may be down to the last 90 minutes in their European season.

That time will come next week at the Estadio de Luz. Today, England’s fifth place club dug themselves a potentially inescapable hole, giving up three away goals in the teams’ first Round of 16 leg.

Former Bolton loanee Rodrigo opened the scoring in the 29th minute, with veteran defender Luisãõ adding two goals in the second half. Though Cristian Eriksen’s 64th minute score briefly brought Sherwood’s side within two, Luisão’s second six minutes from time restored Benfica’s edge.

The result may represent a blessing for Tottenham, with the likes of Harry Kane and Kyle Naughton brought into the team ahead of a weekend derby with Arsenal. Having Europa League off the schedule could certainly simplify any lingering desire to finish fourth.

Liverpool’s surge up the Premier League standings means that’s a bit of a pipe dream, perhaps explaining why most of Sherwood’s regulars were in the starting XI. Heading into the game, Europa League was the team’s best chance at silverware this season, a goal they could pursue without worrying about a meaningful slip in the Premier League. Odds are, Spurs will be back in Europa against next year.

After Thursday’s game, that hope of silverware may be done. The team will need to score at least three times in Portugal to account for the away goals edge Benfica has built. Having been outscored 7-1 over the last 180 minutes, it’s unclear Tottenham’s capable of doing that.

Elsewhere

  • Ludogorets (Bulgaria)  0, Valencia 3 (Spain) – Los Che were up within five minutes through Antonio Barragán but needed a first half penalty save from Diego Alves to maintain that advantage. Goals from Fede Cartabia and Philippe Senderos against 10 men helped Valencia leave Sofia with a decisive edge.
  • Porto (Portugal) 1, Napoli (Italy) 0 – Jackson Martínez put the Dragons  in front off a second half corner, though Rafa Benítez won’t be too disappointed to get out of Portugal down one.
  • Basel (Switzerland) 0, Salzburg (Austria) 0 – The Swiss champions survive after being outshot 15-8 (8-3, shots on target).
  • Juventus (Italy) 1, Fiorentina (Italy) 1 – Arturo Vial’s third minute opener was pulled back by Mario Gomez, with the German international scoring in a substitute’s role to send the tie back to Florence even.
  • AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands) 1, Anzhi Makhachkala (Russia) 0 – A 29th minute penalty converted by U.S. international Aron Johannsson gave last year’s Dutch Cup winners a slight edge before a second leg in Dagestan.
  • Sevilla (Spain) 0, Real Betis (Spain) 2 – La Liga’s last place team pulled off the upset thanks to goals on either side of halftime from Baptistão and substitute Sevilla, giving the Verdiblancos a two-goal edge despite seeing only 30 percent of the ball.
  • Lyon (France) 4, Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 1 – A surprisingly impressive performance from Lyon saw three assists from Steed Malbranque and goals from Gueïda Fofana (two), Alexandre Lacazette, and Arnold Mvuemba give it the day’s highest goal total.

AEK Athens beats Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) AEK Athens defeated Greek league leader Olympiakos 1-0 in an ill-tempered game on Sunday that saw 12 yellow cards and two dismissals.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win of season ]

Astrit Ajdarevic scored the only goal in the 34th minute with a free kick that deflected off Olympiakos defender Manuel da Costa.

Olympiakos’ athletic director Francois Modesto was sent to the stands for protesting about the lead-up to AEK’s goal. His team’s central defender Alberto Botia was dismissed after a second yellow card in the 75th for pulling an advancing AEK forward’s jersey.

Despite the defeat, its second of the season, Olympiakos has a 10-point cushion over second-place Panionios, which beat 10-man Iraklis 1-0.

PAOK, a 4-0 winner over Veria, remains in third place, one point ahead of Panathinaikos, which beat Asteras 5-0 on Saturday. AEK is joint fifth with Xanthi.

PSG drops points against Toulouse days after massive UCL win

PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 14:  Julian Draxler of Paris Saint-Germain looks on during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona at Parc des Princes on February 14, 2017 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Just days after its massive (and somewhat unexpected) beatdown of Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain failed to close the gap on league leaders Monaco.

[ MORE: Messi brace rescues Barca, Pescara earns second win ]

PSG settled for a 0-0 draw on Sunday at the Parc des Princes against eighth-place Toulouse, leaving the Parisian side three points behind Monaco through 26 rounds of action.

[ MORE: Bielsa returns to Ligue 1 with Lille ]

Despite holding the visitors to just three shots (one on target), Toulouse managed to contain a rampant PSG attack, which posted four goals midweek in their rout of the Blaugrana.

PSG’s first strong chance came in the 14th minute when Lucas Moura’s effort was saved in the bottom corner by goalkeeper Alban Lafont.

Meanwhile, Edinson Cavani may have had the game’s best opportunity to break the deadlock when the Uruguayan attacker struck the post from inside the penalty area.

Unai Emery’s group will be back in action on Feb. 26 when PSG travels to Dimitri Payet and Marseille.

Wenger worried over Sutton’s pitch heading Monday’s clash

SUTTON, GREATER LONDON - FEBRUARY 16:  Pundits Paul Merson (4L) and Matt Le Tissier (2L) take part in a training session alongside Paul Doswell manager of Sutton United (L) and players during a Sutton United FA Cup media day on February 16, 2017 at the Borough Sports Ground in Sutton, Greater London. Sutton United are due to face Arsenal in the Emirates FA Cup Fifth round on 20 February.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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The story of Monday’s encounter between Arsenal and fifth-division Sutton United will be whether the minnows can overcome the mighty Gunners.

[ MORE: Mourinho pleased with United’s “attitude” against Blackburn ]

However, Arsene Wenger already fears a bigger challenge within the game, one that concerns his players’ safety.

Sutton’s 5,000-seat Gander Green Lane features an artificial surface, which is largely uncommon for English and most European venues regardless of club standing.

“First of all the pitch. Secondly their enthusiasm. Thirdly that we are not ready mentally for a big fight and think subconsciously that it doesn’t matter,” Wenger said ahead of Monday’s FA Cup meeting in South London.

In preparation for their meeting with the U’s, Wenger had his side train on their own indoor artificial field on Friday.

“Look, ideally we would like to play on a normal pitch. Competition is as well to deal with what you face, and we’ll face an unusual pitch and we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

“We practice inside [on Friday] because we have an artificial pitch. It’s not the same as it’s a dry pitch, and at Sutton I’ve heard that’s a wet pitch, they water it before the game. So it will be much quicker than what we have.”

Leipzig beats ‘Gladbach 2-1, cuts Bayern’s Bundesliga lead

Leipzig's scorer Willi Orban, center, and his teammates celebrate their side's 2nd goal during the German Bundesliga soccer match between RB Leipzig and Hertha BSC Berlin in Leipzig, Germany, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
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BERLIN (AP) Leipzig held on for a 2-1 win at Borussia Moenchengladbach to cut Bayern Munich’s lead in the Bundesliga to five points on Sunday.

[ MORE: Messi rescues Barca, Pescara wins second Serie A match ]

Emil Forsberg scored one and set up another for the promoted side to end its two-game losing streak and stay on course for Champions League qualification with its 14th win of the season.

[ MORE: Bielsa makes Ligue 1 return, joins Lille as new manager ]

`Gladbach `keeper Yann Sommer pulled off a brilliant fingertip save to deny Marcel Sabitzer early on, but he was powerless to stop Forsberg from breaking the deadlock after half an hour played.

Sabitzer and Timo Werner played their way through the static `Gladbach defense and Werner laid the ball off for the Sweden midfielder to fire inside the bottom left corner.

The home side was given a lifeline when Marvin Compper brought down Lars Stindl and referee Felix Zwayer pointed to the spot, but Peter Gulacsi saved Thorgan Hazard‘s penalty before the break.

More poor defending allowed Werner grab the second 10 minutes after the break, firing inside the far post after Forsberg played him through.

Jannik Vestergaard pulled one back with a powerful header from a corner to set up an exciting finale. However, six minutes of injury time were not enough for an equalizer.

Leipzig had kicked off to a chorus of whistles from the home fans, who then mostly stayed silent till the 19th minute in protest against the visiting side. Huge banners in the north stand said “Traditional club since 1900” – an apparent protest against Leipzig, founded in 2009 when Austrian energy-drink billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz rebranded a fifth-tier team with his company’s livery before financing its steady promotion through the lower leagues.

COLOGNE 1, SCHALKE 1

Cologne stopped Schalke’s progress but the point was enough for the visiting side to overtake `Gladbach on goal difference in 10th.

Alessandro Schoepf got the visitors off to a flying start in the second minute with the help of the left post, and Leon Goretzka hit the post after half an hour with the home side still struggling to get into the game.

But Anthony Modeste equalized before the break with a fine strike inside the far post, and might even have scored again just minutes later, when his hesitation allowed Benedikt Hoewedes get back and clear.

Guido Burgstaller came closest to a winner for Schalke in the second half, his shot just wide of the far post after beating the goalkeeper.