Five teams through as Spurs stutter
Tottenham Hotspur failed to provide their absent manager Harry Redknapp with a UEFA Europa League win after his heart operation on Thursday as elsewhere on the fourth batch of group matches five teams ensured safe passage to the round of 32.
The quintet joining already qualified Sporting Lisbon were Dutch duo PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente, Belgian giants Anderlecht, Polish outfit Legia Warsaw and Spain's Athletic Bilbao.
Tottenham came away from their taxing round trip to the outer reaches of the continent empty-handed after a 1-0 defeat at Rubin Kazan, with Redknapp keeping tabs on his mix of youngsters and veterans on television back home. The 64-year-old Spurs boss had earlier in the day been released from hospital after Wednesday's procedure, with assistant manager Kevin Bond and first team coach Joe Jordan taking charge in Tatarstan.
The Russians bagged the decisive goal ten minutes into the second, with Israeli midfielder Bebras Natcho curling a fine free-kick from just outside the box past a motionless Carlo Cudicini. Rubin could have pressed home their margin of superiority but for some diligent work from the Italian in the Londoners' goal.
Spurs had been hoping to qualify with two matches remaining, but will now have to wait for their home game against Greek outfit PAOK Salonica or the trip to Dublin to take on Shamrock Rovers. "It is going to be tight right until the end, but with the games we have got left, it is still in our hands to qualify and we feel confident we will do," said Spurs assistant manager Bond.
Stoke on the verge
A former Spurs favourite, striker Peter Crouch, was on the mark as Stoke City won in Israel. Crouch's 64th-minute goal nine minutes after Dean Whitehead's opener earned Stoke a notable 2-1 victory at Maccabi Tel Aviv to put Tony Pulis's side on the verge of progressing. The win lifted the group leaders up to ten points in Group E.
"I thought the lads were brilliant tonight. They huffed and puffed a little bit but I thought we coped with it smashing," Pulis said.
It was a good night for the other British clubs too, as Birmingham City are in a three way tie at the top of Group H after a 2-2 draw with Club Brugge. Celtic gained their first win, meanwhile, with a 3-1 home win over Rennes, to keep alive their chances in Group I, while Fulham also had a productive evening with a 4-1 win over Wisla Krakow to hold onto second in Group K.
Former European champions PSV Eindhoven hosted Hapoel Tel Aviv and were made to fight, with Kevin Strootman's goal three minutes from time earning them a 3-3 draw, sufficient to see them through from Group C.
Five sides go through
Anderlecht beat Sturm Graz 3-2 to qualify from Group L, while FC Twente joined them in the round of 32 with an emphatic 3-0 home defeat of Odense in Group K. Athletic Bilbao progressed from Group F courtesy of a 1-0 win at Salzburg, while Legia Warsaw beat Rapid Bucharest 3-1 to join PSV in escaping from Group C.
Paris Saint-Germain tightened their grip on second spot behind Athletic Bilbao courtesy of Javier Pastore's sweet second-half volley, which gave the wealthy French outfit a 1-0 win over Slovan Bratislava.
Finally, Lazio kept alive their hopes of qualifying from Group D with a 1-0 home defeat of FC Zurich, which put them into second behind Sporting Lisbon, beaten in Romania by FC Vaslui.