Liverpool advance as Roma crash
Liverpool survived a big scare against Romanian underdogs Unirea Urziceni on Thursday night before securing a 3-1 victory that takes them into the UEFA Europa League Round of 16.
Serie A giants Roma, however, crashed out of the competition after losing 3-2 at home to Greek side Panathinaikos, while defending champions Shakhtar Donetsk were eliminated by English Premier League side Fulham. Fulham will play Juventus in the next round after the Turin side drew 0-0 in a drab game at home to Ajax to see out a 2-1 aggregate success. German champions Wolfsburg thrashed Villarreal 4-1 for an aggregate 6-3 win, while Valencia's 1-0 win at home to Belgian side Club Brugge took their tie into extra time.
Liverpool led 1-0 on aggregate following a tense first leg at Anfield, and they fell behind on the night to a 19th-minute header from Joao Bruno Fernandes, but goals from Javier Mascherano, Ryan Babel and Steven Gerrard took them through. "I think it was a difficult game and the pitch was terrible so we knew it could be tough and very demanding for the players," said Liverpool coach Rafael Benitez, who also revealed that centre-back Martin Skrtel had sustained a suspected broken toe.
"We conceded a goal, and we then had to be calm and just keep playing our game," said Benitez. Liverpool, five-time European champions, will face French side Lille in the next round, after their defender Adil Rami glanced in an 85th-minute free-kick to secure a 3-2 aggregate victory at Turkish heavyweights Fenerbahce.
Roma had seen a 20-match unbeaten run come to an end when they lost 3-2 at Panathinaikos in the first leg in Athens, but they drew level in the 11th minute at the Stadio Olimpico thanks to a free-kick by John Arne Riise. The visitors took control of the tie in a dazzling six-minute spell prior to the break with Djibril Cisse - the match-winner in the first leg - scoring twice, either side of a fine effort by Sotiris Ninis.
"We wanted to do our best, the stadium was full, but unfortunately, there were a few minutes of madness, like in Athens," said Roma coach Claudio Ranieri, whose side are currently third in Serie A. Panathinaikos will now play Belgian champions Standard Liege, who beat Red Bull Salzburg 3-2 on aggregate.
Fulham produced perhaps the shock of the evening after securing a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Shakhtar, winners of the last ever UEFA Cup last season. Brede Hangeland secured a crucial away goal for Roy Hodgson's team in the 33rd minute, with Rodrigues Jadson replying in vain 21 minutes from time.
Everton were unable to join their Premier League colleagues in the last 16, however, as they were beaten 3-0 at Sporting Lisbon after winning the first leg 2-1. Sporting will face Atletico Madrid in the next round after Quique Sanchez Flores's charges snatched a 3-2 aggregate victory over Galatasaray in Istanbul thanks to a last-minute goal from star striker Diego Forlan.
Elsewhere, Hamburg went through on away goals despite losing 3-2 at PSV Eindhoven in a game in which both sides finished with 10 men, Anderlecht thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 to progress 5-1 on aggregate and Marseille completed a 6-2 aggregate victory over FC Copenhagen. "I'm pleased with the result," said Marseille coach Didier Deschamps. "It was a good evening, with no injuries, and we were able to keep some players warm on the bench."
Benfica, who defeated Hertha Berlin 4-0 on Tuesday to round off a 5-1 aggregate win, await Marseille in the last 16. Wolfsburg will meet Russian champions Rubin Kazan, 3-0 aggregate winners over Hapoel Tel Aviv, while the winners of the Valencia-Club Brugge tie must take on last season's runners-up Werder Bremen, after striker Claudio Pizarro netted three times in their 4-1 win over FC Twente.
UEFA Europa League Round of 16
To be played Thursday March 11 (first leg), Thursday March 18 (second leg)
Hamburg (GER) v Anderlecht (BEL)
Rubin Kazan (RUS) v Wolfsburg (GER)
Atletico Madrid (ESP) v Sporting Lisbon (POR)
Benfica (POR) v Marseille (FRA)
Panathinaikos (GRE) v Standard Liege (BEL)
Lille (FRA) v Liverpool (ENG)
Juventus (ITA) v Fulham (ENG)
Valencia (ESP) v Werder Bremen (GER)