Blues edge through, Ajax outed on penalties
Nine matches took place this evening in the UEFA Europa League, following six games that wrapped up earlier today. To start, Viktoria Plzen beat Serie A title hopefuls Napoli for the second time in a week to book their place in the last-16 for the first time. Plzen cantered to a 3-0 win in Naples last week and they completed a professional performance over two legs with a 2-0 victory tonight thanks to strikes by Jan Kovarik and Stanislav Tecl.
Next up for Plzen is Fenerbahce, for whom Cristian Baroni's first-half penalty was enough see off ten-man BATE Borisov 1-0. With the scores goalless after the first leg, BATE's hopes were hit by the dismissal of Dmitri Baga, while Cristian's spot-kick was enough to see Fener scrape through.
Steaua Bucharest dumped Dutch giants Ajax out in a penalty shoot-out to set up a last-16 clash with Chelsea. Ajax had won the first leg 2-0 but Iasmin Latovlevici's excellent first-half goal put Steaua ahead on the night and Vlad Chiriches struck from long range to force extra time. It was no less than the Romanian side deserved and following a goalless extra-time period, Latovlevici netted the winning penalty after Lasse Schone and Niklas Moisander had missed for Ajax.
A Jamie Carragher error proved costly as Liverpool were edged out of the competition on away goals despite a 3-1 win on the night against Zenit St Petersburg. The veteran defender, making his 150th - and now last - European appearance, gifted Zenit's star forward Hulk a goal that gave the Russians a 3-0 aggregate lead. Liverpool responded as top scorer Luis Suarez fired in two free-kicks and Joe Allen struck from close range but Hulk's away goal was decisive as the tie ended 3-3.
Substitute Eden Hazard saved Chelsea's blushes as his late goal secured a 1-1 home draw with Sparta Prague and a 2-1 aggregate win. Hazard netted in the final moments of the contest after David Lafata had earlier wiped out Chelsea's first-leg advantage as he fired in from close range after 17 minutes.
Benfica saw off Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 on aggregate in their encounter in Portugal. Benfica held a 1-0 lead from the first leg in Germany thanks to Oscar Cardozo's goal, and their lead was doubled when Ola John found the net after an hour. Andre Schurrle equalised for Leverkusen on the night with 15 minutes to go, but Benfica restored their two-goal cushion two minutes later through Nemanja Matic.
Benfica next play Bordeaux who progressed after a 2-1 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev. A solitary goal by Cheick Diabate shortly before half-time was enough to guide Bordeaux through after the first leg in Ukraine ended 1-1.
Anzhi Makhachkala set up a last-16 tie with Newcastle despite a 1-0 loss at Hannover. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Hannover threw everything they had at the Russians but only had Sergio Pinto's 70th-minute goal to show for it as Anzhi squeaked through.
Lastly, Levante are through to a tie with Rubin Kazan after a 1-0 win at Olympiacos. The Spanish side held a 3-0 lead after the first leg and duly wrapped up a 4-0 aggregate win thanks to Obafemi Martins' early strike.