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McNicholas: Arsenal have a winning formula

Arsenal about an hour ago
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Feb 14, 2013

Bale steals the show, Reds slump at Zenit

Gareth Bale scored two sensational free-kicks as Tottenham gained the advantage over Lyon with a thrilling last-gasp 2-1 win in the Europa League at White Hart Lane. • Brassell: Brilliant Bale sparkles
• Blog: Reds' falling standing • Europa League Gallery Samuel Umtiti looked like he had earned a draw for Lyon when he smashed home a stunning half-volley equaliser in the 55th minute, but once again Bale came to the rescue for Spurs. The Welshman put Tottenham ahead with another physics-defying set piece from 35 yards in first-half stoppage time, and he came up with the goods again just 10 seconds from the final whistle. Maxime Gonalons upended Bale 20 yards out, the crowd called the 23-year-old's name, and he stepped up to crack a swirling shot over the wall and past a spinning Remy Vercoutre. The Spurs winger, who played most of the first half up front alongside the poor Emmanuel Adebayor, has now scored seven goals in his last five games for club and country. Liverpool conceded two goals in less than three minutes at Zenit St Petersburg to leave their Europa League campaign hanging in the balance with a 2-0 defeat. Despite having failed to properly test goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev with a number of chances the Reds seemed to be managing to hold on in their last-32 Europa League first-leg tie in the sub-zero Petrovsky Stadium. But with 20 minutes remaining Hulk powered home a brilliant 30-yard strike before substitute Sergei Semak converted from close-range moments later. Liverpool - and in particular top scorer Luis Suarez - will have to rediscover their shooting boots for the return leg next week otherwise their last chance of a trophy this season will be lost. Oscar saved Chelsea, interim boss Rafael Benitez and striker Fernando Torres from embarrassment with an 82nd-minute winner to secure a 1-0 victory away to Sparta Prague. Torres, a £50 million striker now with one goal in 13 games, missed a straightforward effort after 35 minutes and sliced a second-half shot out for a corner in another impotent display from last season's Champions League winners at the Generali Arena. With a stalemate looming and the visiting fans' ire for Benitez and Torres increasing, Oscar came on for Juan Mata and scored with his first involvement, netting neatly following a one-two with Eden Hazard. Anzhi Makhachkala recovered from a goal down to win 3-1 against Hannover, although the Russian side will hope they will not be made to rue Samuel Eto'o's missed second-half penalty. Hannover took a 22nd-minute lead through Szabolcs Huszti but Eto'o drew Anzhi level soon after and Odil Ahmedov put the hosts ahead immediately after half-time. Eto'o then spurned the chance to make it 3-1 in the 57th minute when his spot-kick was saved by Ron-Robert Zieler, but Anzhi were still able to secure a two-goal lead to take to Germany for the second leg thanks to Mbark Boussoufa's strike. Papiss Cisse had two goals disallowed as Newcastle drew 0-0 and failed to claim the first-leg lead over Metalist Kharkiv they so desperately wanted to take to Ukraine. The Senegal international had a 23rd-minute effort controversially ruled out for offside, and then another 16 minutes from time for the same reason to leave the Magpies facing a stern test in next Thursday's Europa League last-32 second leg. Goals by Toby Alderweireld and Ricardo Van Rhijn guided Ajax to the brink of a place in the last 16 with a comfortable 2-0 victory over 10-man Steaua Bucharest at the Amsterdam ArenA. The margin of victory could have been greater but for the performance of Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu, although the visitors may well rue their inability to attack until they were two goals down. Overturning such a deficit against Frank de Boer's team in Romania is daunting enough, but they must do so without Mihai Pintilii, who was sent off at the death for his second bookable offence. Oleg Gusev missed a second-half penalty as wasteful Dynamo Kiev played out a 1-1 draw with Bordeaux . The Ukrainian hosts dominated the contest and took a deserved lead through Lukman Haruna, but that was cancelled out within minutes by Ludovic Obraniak.Gusev then won his side a penalty which could have secured the win, but he hit the woodwork with his kick on a frustrating night. Fenerbahce held BATE Borisov to a goalless draw in their Europa League first leg in Belarus despite playing all bar the first three minutes with 10 men. The visitors had Raul Meireles sent off early on but were not made to pay, with BATE's finishing wasteful and keeper Volkan Demirel up to the task when he was called upon.The result surely leaves the tie balanced in Fener's favour ahead of next week's return leg at the Sukru Sarakoglu Stadium. Levante put aside their poor domestic form to claim an impressive 3-0 victory over 10-man Olympiakos that leaves them within touching distance of a place in the last 16 of the Europa League. The Spanish outfit out had lost five of their last six in league and cup prior to the gamebut goals from Pedro Rios, Jose Barkero and Obafemi Martins earned Juan Ignacio Martinez's men a notable scalp against a side who were playing in the Champions League group stages before Christmas. Viktoria Plzen confirmed themselves as one of the dark horses in this year's Europa League after shocking Napoli to win 3-0 in the first leg of the last-32 tie at San Paolo.

Plzen beat defending champions Atletico Madrid to top their group and are now heavy favourites to progress past the high-flying Italians after late goals from Stanislav Tecl and Frantisek Rajtoral built on Vladimar Darida's first-half opener. Oscar Cardozo's second-half strike was enough to ensure Benfica will take a slender 1-0 advantage back to the Estadio da Luz against Bayer Leverkusen. Cardozo tapped home an Andre Almeida assist the hour as Bayer conceded at home in Europe for the first time this season. Victory extends Benfica's unbeaten run to 23 games in all competitions although the Portuguese, who dropped out of the Champions League, had to work hard to maintain that run. Substitute Libor Kozak netted a brace to help 10-man Lazio gain the upper hand against Borussia Monchengladbach following a breathless 3-3 draw in the first leg that saw the home side awarded three penalties. Rodrigo Palacio scored twice following his early entrance as a substitute to put Inter Milan in control of their Europa League last-32 tie against Cluj as they won 2-0. Palacio, a 10th-minute replacement after a serious-looking injury to Diego Milito, scored 10 minutes after that and added a late second. Those two goals, coupled with a clean sheet, means next week's trip to Transylvania for the second leg should hold few terrors for the Serie A side. Atletico Madrid's hopes of retaining their Europa League title suffered a huge blow after they were defeated 2-0 by Rubin Kazan at the Vicente Calderon, despite playing for half the game with an extra man. Gokdeniz Karadeniz gave the visitors a dream start when he netted after five minutes and then a moment of madness by Atletico goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo gifted Pablo Orbaiz a second goal in stoppage time as Rubin claimed a potentially decisive advantage. Atletico began the game brightly but it was the visitors who struck first. A last-minute goal from Glynor Plet gave Racing Genk a precious away goal as they held Stuttgart to a 1-1 draw at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Christian Gentner had fired the hosts ahead before half-time of the Europa League last-32 match, but Plet struck in stoppage time to level the scores and give his team the advantage heading into the return match in Belgium next week. Juande Ramos' chances of becoming only the second manager to win the Europa League for a third time may have to wait another year after his Dnipro side were beaten 2-0 by Basel at St. Jakob-Park. Ramos had won the trophy twice before at Sevilla and a third triumph would put him level with Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni. However, a first-half goal from Valentin Stocker and a second-half strike from Marco .Streller ensured the Swiss side head into next week's second leg at the Dnipro Stadium in control.

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