After a highly entertaining couple of nights in the Champions League, Thursday night saw the Europa League play-offs take place and fans across the continent were in for some equally thrilling encounters.
Wednesday night wins for both Inter Milan and Dnipro had set the wheels in motion for an exciting Thursday night schedule and the action didn’t fail to deliver.
English fans would have had an eye on the progress of Tottenham and Hull City. Here’s how the Premier League sides got on:
AEL Limassol 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
A 2-1 victory in Cyprus has left Spurs on the verge of qualification for the group stage but in truth it was a far tougher challenge than the scoreline may suggest.
It took just 14 minutes for the hosts to take a shock lead thanks to a confident finish by Spanish striker Adrian Sardinero. Many would have expected an instant response from the visitors but the hosts very nearly held out for a memorable victory.
Having already beaten Zenit St Petersburg at home last month the Cypriots would have been quietly confident when they entered the interval with a first-half lead. Conversely, Mauricio Pochettino’s first European half-time team talk as Tottenham boss would have been quite challenging but the Argentine seemed to get things spot on as his side looked far more dangerous after the break.
Spurs were beginning to knock on the door but the 72nd minute introduction of Erik Lamela was the driving force behind Tottenham’s late revival. It took the Argentine midfielder made an instant impact by assisting Spaniard Roberto Soldado for the equalise before setting up Harry Kane for the winner just six minutes later.
It was a truly inspired substitution by Pochettino and his compatriot certainly bailed his side out in this tricky encounter.
A win and two away goals leaves Spurs firmly in the driving seat and the north Londoners will be fully expected to complete the job at White Hart Lane next week. They might have endured the odd scare but, in the end, it was another productive night for Tottenham.
Lokeren 1-0 Hull City
After winning their first ever European encounter against Trencin in the last round, Steve Bruce’s Tigers now face a real uphill battle in their bid to reach the Europa League group stage.
It was experienced goalkeeper Allan McGregor who went from hero to villain by handing the Belgian’s a crucial first-leg advantage ahead of next week’s reverse fixture at the KC. The former Rangers shot-stopper saved a late penalty to help his side to an opening day Premier League win over QPR, but he cost his side dearly at the Daknamstadion.
A moment of madness saw McGregor pass the ball to a grateful Hans Vanaken, who duly accepted the gift by rounding the goalkeeper before slotting into an empty net.
To make matters worse, the Tigers also failed to hit the target despite creating the better chances. With no away goal and a one-goal deficit to overturn, Hull could be about to see their Europa League dream come to an abrupt end against next week.
It’s far from over for the Tigers, but they will need to be at their very best next week.
Europa League Play-Off First-Leg Results:
AEL Limassol 1-2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Aktobe 0-1 Legia Warsaw
Apollon Limassol 1-1 Lokomotiv Moscow
Asteras Tripolis 2-0 Maccabi Tel Aviv
Dinamo Minsk 2-0 Nacional
Dnipro 2-1 Hajduk Split
Dynamo Moscow 2-2 Omonia Nicosia
Elfsborg 2-1 Rio Ave
FC Astana 0-3 Villarreal
FK Sarajevo 2-3 Borussia Monchengladbach
Grasshoppers 1-2 Club Brugge
HNK Rijeka 1-0 Sheriff Tiraspol
HJK Helsinki 2-1 Rapid Wien
Karabakh 0-0 FC Twente
Karabukspor 1-0 Saint Etienne
Lokeren 1-0 HULL CITY
Lyon 1-2 Astra Giurgui
Panathinaikos 4-1 Midtjylland
Partizan Belgrade 3-2 Neftchi Baku
PEC Zwolle 1-1 Sparta Prague
Petrolul Ploiesti 1-3 Dinamo Zagreb
PSV 1-0 Shakhter Soligorsk
Real Sociedad 1-0 FK Krasnodar
RNK Split 0-0 Torino
Ruch Chorzow 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv
Spartak Trnava 1-3 FC Zurich
Stjarnan 0-3 Inter Milan
Trabzonspor 2-0 Rostov
Young Boys 3-1 Debrecen
Zimbru Chisinau 1-0 PAOK Salonika
Zorya 1-1 Feyenoord