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The Toe Poke

Reds held, Porto beat Sevilla

Kenny Dalglish's first European match in charge of Liverpool was a forgettable one, with the Reds held to a 0-0 draw in their Europa League last 32, first-leg tie at Sparta Prague.

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While Liverpool had the majority of possession, their failure to find a cutting edge will be a source of concern to Dalglish, who has turned around the club's fortunes since replacing Roy Hodgson.

Playing in a competition that represents their last chance to salvage some silverware from a difficult season, Liverpool's performance was reminiscent of their darkest days under Hodgson, when caution came before enterprise.

Although much of the pre-match speculation focused on the possible involvement of 16-year-old Raheem Sterling, who would have become Liverpool's youngest player, Dalglish took the striker out of the firing line by not including him in the matchday squad.

Napoli were held to a goalless draw by Spanish side Villarreal in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 showdown in Naples. The Italians, who lie second in Serie A after an impressive campaign so far, struggled to get past Villarreal's massed defence and had to settle for a scoreless result.

Benfica scored twice in the final 20 minutes to overturn an early deficit against Stuttgart and earn a narrow 2-1 lead to take to Germany.

Stuttgart, putting aside their domestic worries where they are stuck in the bottom two of the Bundesliga and four points adrift of safety, looked on course for a possible upset when they took the lead in the 21st minute through Martin Harnik. However, Benfica stormed back in the second half and Oscar Cardozo drew the hosts level in the 70th minute before Franco Jara added a second nine minutes from time.

Substitute Fredy Guarin netted a late winner to give Porto a 2-1 win and put them in pole position in their tie with Sevilla. Guarin capitalised on a defensive mix-up five minutes from time to give Porto a potentially crucial advantage to take back to Portugal for the return leg. Earlier, Porto had taken the lead through Jorge Rolando in the 59th minute but that was cancelled out by a Frederic Kanoute header seven minutes later.

Christian Eriksen inspired Ajax to a deceptively emphatic 3-0 victory over Anderlecht in Belgium in a match in which they were second best for long periods. The Denmark playmaker scored one goal and had a hand in the other two, teeing up Toby Alderweireld and Mounir El Hamdaoui to fire Frank de Boer's side towards the last 16.

PSV Eindhoven stunned Lille with two late goals in a minute to salvage a 2-2 draw in France. The Ligue 1 leaders went ahead through Idrissa Gueye after six minutes when Andreas Isaksson failed to deal with a corner, then Tulio De Melo doubled the lead just after the half-hour mark.

Having offered little for most of the game, PSV then struck back with two goals seemingly from nowhere - Wilfred Bouma netting in the 84th minute and Ola Toivonen completing the comeback 64 seconds later.

Dynamo Kiev claimed a comfortable advantage in the first leg of their tie with crisis club Besiktas when winning 4-1 in Turkey.

Besiktas, who cancelled captain Ibrahim Uzulmez's contract this week following a spat with team-mate Ibrahim Toraman, seemed to be putting their off-field problems behind them as they had the best of a first half which saw Ricardo Quaresma level after Ognjen Vukojevic had put the visitors ahead. But the Ukrainians dominated after the break, with goals from Andriy Shevchenko and Ayila Yussuf, as well as a last-minute penalty from Oleg Gusev, all but killing the tie.

Basel squandered a two-goal lead and finished with ten men as they surrendered the momentum to Spartak Moscow to lose 3-2. Alexander Frei and Marco Streller headed the home side into what appeared a commanding half-time advantage. But Dmitri Kombarov and Artem Dzjuba drew the Russians level and Xherdan Shaqiri's dismissal meant it was Basle who were left clinging on before Zhano Ananidze's last-minute free-kick completed the turnaround.

A last-minute goal from Peguy Luyindula earned Paris Saint Germain a 2-2 away draw against BATE Borisov. Renan Bressan had opened the scoring for the Belarusian club, but Mevlut Erdinc cancelled that out at Dinamo Stadion only for Mikhail Gordeychuk to restore BATE's lead nine minutes from time.

FC Twente put one foot in the last 16 as they claimed a 2-0 victory over Rubin Kazan at a freezing Luzhniki Stadium.

The goals came late for Twente as striker Luuk de Jong got the opening goal for the Dutch visitors with just 13 minutes remaining as he headed home a cross from Theo Janssen. De Jong then almost turned in a Denny Landzaat corner, but Peter Wisgerhof was on hand to tap home the rebound in the 88th minute.

Rangers were dealt a blow when Matias Fernandez grabbed a late leveller to deny them victory over Sporting Lisbon, who left Ibrox with a 1-1 draw. Steven Whittaker - who netted a superb goal against the same team en-route to the UEFA Cup final three years ago - was on the scoresheet again but it was not enough to claim victory.

Sidney Sam's two goals at the death ensured Bayer Leverkusen will bring a commanding lead back to Germany after defeating Metalist Kharkiv 4-0. Eren Derdiyok put them ahead at half-time and Gonzalo Castro made it 2-0.

Substitute Emmanuel Mayuka hit a stoppage-time winner as Young Boys secured a narrow 2-1 advantage to take to Zenit St Petersburg next week. The Swiss side fell behind to Nicolas Lombaerts headed opener in the 20th minute, before Senad Lulic pounced for an equaliser in the first minute of the second half. Zenit had looked like holding on for a draw with 10 men but Mayuka scored in the fourth additional minute.

Tomas Necid scored the only goal to give CSKA Moscow a slender 1-0 advantage in their clash at PAOK Salonika.

Artjoms Rudnevs was Lech Poznan's Europa League hero again as he gave the Polish side a 1-0 lead to take into the second leg of their clash with Braga.


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