While there were no representatives from the English Premier League in this season’s Champions League Quarter-finals, three teams continue to fly the flag in the Europa League. Chelsea, Newcastle and Tottenham beat difficult opposition on Thursday night and are now the favourites to win the cup in May.
Spurs almost threw away a 3-0 lead from the first leg. Without the suspended Gareth Bale it took extra-time to beat Inter Milan on the away goal rule courtesy of Emmanuel Adebayor after leaking three goals in normal time with a very poor display.
Newcastle squeezed past new Russian rich kids on the block, Anzhi with a last minute goal by Cisse to go through 1-0 over the two legs. Anzhi manager Guus Hiddink is now being linked to a return move to Chelsea after stating he would like to manage in the Premier League.
Chelsea played poorly in the first leg against Steau Bucharest and started the match at Stamford Bridge on Thursday with a 1-0 deficit. Steau started the match full of confidence as they are currently 12 points clear in the Romanian domestic league. Chelsea began well but found it hard to break down a strong, strict team. But eventually Chelsea got their break with a well worked goal from Juan Mata (33 min) that managed to deflect off the goalkeeper and into the corner of the net.
At this point it looked like Chelsea were in control of the tie. But just before half-time they let Steau Bucharest back into the driving sit when they equalised from a corner after some poor defending. The away goal rule meant Chelsea needed to score twice in the second half, if they were going to progress.
Returning captain John Terry (58 min) headed them back in front and Fernando Torres (71 min) put Chelsea further ahead with 20 minutes to go. Torres could have put the game to bed & boosted his confidence further but his penalty kick rebounded off the bar.
As with the FA Cup game last weekend against Manchester United, Chelsea took control of the match and deserved to progress into the Europa League quarter-finals but have been replaced by Tottenham as favourites to win the competition on bwinbetting.com.
Europa League Quarter-finals
Benefica v Newcastle United
Chelsea v Rubin Kazan
Fenerbahce v Lazio
Tottenham v FC Basel
All games to be played on Thursday 4th & 11th April.