Spurs stroll past Inter, Blues beaten
Gareth Bale haunted Inter Milan again as Tottenham romped to a very impressive 3-0 Europa League last-16 first leg win over the Nerazzurri at White Hart Lane.
Bale grabbed the world's attention when he tore Inter apart in the Champions League two season ago and after Andre Villas-Boas warned Inter that the Welshman had improved immeasurably in the two years, four months and five days that had passed since that famous night at White Hart Lane, he was proven right.
Bale nodded home Gylfi Sigurdsson's cross to put Spurs ahead after just five minutes and he set up Jan Vertonghen for the hosts' third after Sigurdsson himself had scored the second.
The Spurs No. 11 missed a couple of chances to match the hat-trick he scored in the San Siro two seasons ago, but in the end it did not matter as Spurs dominated a poor Inter team seemingly determined to get knocked out of the competition so they can concentrate on qualifying for the Champions League via Serie A.
Rafael Benitez's Chelsea suffered a lacklustre 1-0 defeat to Steaua Bucuresti in their Europa League clash at the National Arena in Romania.
In the first of two games in four days, and the Blues' 50th match of a turbulent season, last season's Champions League winners went behind after 34 minutes when Ryan Bertrand was penalised for pulling back Raul Rusescu, who converted the spot-kick.
An expectant partisan crowd made Benitez feel at home, jeering every time Chelsea had possession as the hosts refused to be intimidated. Scarcely did they have reason to boo as Steaua enjoyed far superior territory and possession throughout, with the visitors unable to create any meaningful chances.
Hatem Ben Arfa passed up a golden opportunity to celebrate his 26th birthday in style as Newcastle United claimed a 0-0 draw against Anzhi Makhachkala in Moscow.
The Frenchman, making his first appearance since tearing a hamstring at Fulham on December 10, was played in on goal by compatriot Yohan Cabaye with 64 minutes gone, but could not beat goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov with an ambitious chipped effort.
An away goal would have seen the Magpies take a significant step towards the quarter-finals, although had keeper Rob Elliot, once again deputising for the injured Tim Krul, not made two excellent saves from Samuel Eto'o either side of half-time, Anzhi could have been heading for St James' Park next week with a lead to defend.
Basel's strong home form in Europe stood up to Zenit St Petersburg as two late goals gave them a 2-0 advantage to take to the Russian champions.
Marcelo Diaz scored in the 82nd minute after both sides had wasted a string of chances, and substitute Alexander Frei scored from the penalty spot deep in stoppage time after Luis Neto had seen red for a foul on Mohamed Salah.
It extends Basel's unbeaten home run in the competition to five matches, dating back to their second group game, while extending a poor run for Zenit which has seen them win only one away match in Europe in 11 attempts.
Lazio put one foot in the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a confident display to win 2-0 away to Stuttgart.
Stuttgart knew they needed a result at home to have much hope, given the Italians' imposing home form, but barely created a clear opening in slumping to defeat.
Goals in either half from Honorato Ederson and Ogenyi Onazi sealed the win for Lazio, who will now take a commanding advantage back to the Stadio Olimipico where they are unbeaten in 10 European outings.
Benfica will head to the Stade Chaban-Delmas on the back of a 1-0 victory after a hard-fought first leg win over Bordeaux. An unfortunate own goal from goalkeeper Cedric Carasso was the difference between the sides, as both teams struggled to create opportunities at the Estadio da Luz.
Fenerbahce are in a strong position heading into their second leg after an impressive 1-0 victory at Viktoria Plzen.
The Czechs failed to hit their stride and Pierre Webo's late strike was deserved punishment for the home side's lack of attacking intent.
Both sides had a man sent off but neither Levante nor Rubin Kazan could find the net in a Europa League stalemate. The Spanish side were marginally the better side in the first half and had a chance to take control ahead of the second leg when Rubin's Cristian Ansaldi was given a second yellow card in the 53rd minute.
But they threw away the advantage almost immediately, losing Michel to a straight red card just moments later. The extra space was not enough to bring a goal, leaving everything to play for when hostilities resume in Russia.