A roundup of all of Thursday’s Europa League knockout round action:
Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Fiorentina
Roberto Soldado put Tottenham ahead with a technically perfect side-volley from a Paulinho corner kick in the sixth minute, but Spurs couldn’t further capitalize on a dominant performance in the game’s opening 30 minutes. Jose Basanta hit home a rebound off the post to pull Fiorentina level and grab a vital away goal in the first leg.
Harry Kane started the game on the bench, but was subbed on in the 66th minute as Spurs made every effort at a second goal. In truth, Fiorentina looked the side more likely to score a winner, but will be more than happy with the 1-1 draw ahead of next Thursday’s second leg in Florence.
Liverpool 1-0 Besiktas
Mario Balotelli scored the late winner (85th minute) from the penalty spot to give Liverpool a fair cushion before next week’s return leg in Istanbul. Youngster Jordan Ibe won the penalty with a darting run into the Besiktas penalty area where Ramon’s challenge brought down the 19-year-old from behind.
As things go with Balotelli, his game-winning goal wasn’t without incident, as the Italian insisted on taking the spot kick over Jordan Henderson, who was captain for the day. Club captain Steven Gerrard, who is injured and covered the game for ITV Sport in the UK, said after the game:
“Jordan should have taken the penalty. Rules are rules. It should have been Henderson. Mario has been a bit mischievous.”
“Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there, but he’s scored a very important goal.”
By keeping a clean sheet in the first leg, Liverpool go through to the round of 16 with any draw or victory in the second leg. They would also advance with any one-goal defeat in which both sides score, based on the away-goals tiebreaker.
BSC Young Boys 1-4 Everton
Remember Romelu Lukaku? You know, the big Belgian forward who went to Chelsea for $26 million three and a half years ago, then moved to Everton for a club-record $43 million last summer. Lukaku, who scored 15 goals in 31 league games while on loan at Everton last season, has struggled to begin his permanent Everton career, prompting speculation he may once again be on the move this summer.
On Thursday, Lukaku reminded everyone of what a nightmare he can be for opposing defenses en route to scoring a 58-minute hat trick. Lukaku tallied goals in the 24th, 39th and 58th minutes to give Roberto Martinez’s side a comfortable lead ahead of next week’s second leg at home.
Celtic 3-3 Inter Milan
The game of the day was undoubtedly played at Celtic Park as Celtic fought back from two deficits, 2-0 and 3-2, to give themselves the faintest glimmer of hope in the second leg. Early goals by Xherdan Shaqiri (4th minute) and Rodrigo Palacio (13th) led many to believe Inter would run away with the tie, but a one-minute double salvo from Stuart Armstrong (24th) and Hugo Campagnaro (25th) put the Scottish Premiership leaders back on level terms.
Palacio scored again just before halftime and Inter looked destined for victory, but former Manchester City forward John Guidetti scored in the third minute of stoppage time to force at least half a first-team lineup at the San Siro Stadium.
Elsewhere in Europa League
Torino 2-2 Athletic Bilbao
Wolfsburg 2-0 Sporting CP
Aalborg 1-3 Club Brugge
Dnipro 2-0 Olympiacos
Trabzonspor 0-4 Napoli
Roma 1-1 Feyenoord
PSV 1-1 Zenit St. Petersburg
Sevilla 1-0 Borussia Monchengladbach
Ajax 1-0 Legia Warsaw
Anderlecht 0-0 Dinamo Moscow
Guingamp 2-1 Dynamo Kyiv
Villarreal 2-1 Red Bull Salzburg