Chelsea and Tottenham each needed last-minute goals to see of Sparta Prague and Olympique Lyon, respectively, whileLuis Suarez inspired a harrowing but ultimately unsuccessful Liverpool comeback against Zenit St. Petersburg in the Europa League Round of 32 on Thursday.
A fantasticMousa Dembele strike in the 90th minute rescued a 1-1 draw for Spurs in Lyon, enough to secure a 3-2 aggregate win. The London club’s next opponent will be Serie A giant Inte, which swept aside CFR Cluj with a 5-0 victory over two legs. After the game, Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas asserted that going through against Lyon and Inter “puts you in a good place to win the competition."
Meanwhile, at Stamford Bridge, striker Fernando Torres squandered at least half a dozen chances to bring Chelsea back into its second-leg match, where Sparta Prague was leading 1-0. In the end, it took a 92nd minute thunderbolt from substitute Eden Hazard to secure the series for the European champion. "I think we can be talking about Fernando not scoring goals because he has four chances, but I will look at the positive - he had four good chances," Chelsea’s interim coach Rafael Benitez said after the 2-1 aggregate win.
Finally, Liverpool won 3-1 on the night but lost its Europa League series with Zenit, 3-3, thanks to the away goals rule. Suarez scored from two fantastic free-kicks to bring the Reds close to overcoming what was at one stage a 3-0 deficit, but ultimately, Hulk’s opener at Anfield -- a gift from Liverpool centerback Jaime Carragher-- proved to be the difference. Nevertheless, Coach Brendan Rodgers hailed his team’s “phenomenal” performance.