Plzeň and Levante lead the way on opening night
Thursday, 14 February 2013
Levante UD and FC Viktoria Plzeň have one foot in the last 16 after 3-0 first leg victories but holders Club Atlético de Madrid have work to do after losing 2-0 at home to FC Rubin Kazan.
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Levante UD and FC Viktoria Plzeň led the way with particularly eye-catching results on the opening night of the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
FC Zenit St Petersburg and FC Anji Makhachkala began proceedings in the early kick-offs with two-goal victories against Liverpool FC and Hannover 96 respectively. That was just the start, however, competition debutants Levante going one better with a 3-0 first-leg triumph over ten-man Olympiacos FC, eliminated at the UEFA Champions League group stage in December. Plzeň racked up an equally impressive win at SSC Napoli, the Italian side's heaviest ever home defeat in European competition.
Holders Club Atlético de Madrid are also up against it, having succumbed to a 2-0 home loss against FC Rubin Kazan. European champions Chelsea FC had no such difficulty and head back to Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 advantage over AC Sparta Praha. SL Benfica will also hold sway on home soil having beaten Bayer 04 Leverkusen by a solitary effort.
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, owners of the second most impressive group stage record, have a sizeable challenge on their hands following a 2-0 reverse at FC Basel 1893. VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, meanwhile, scored two penalties and missed another in a dramatic 3-3 draw with S.S. Lazio, Juan Arango's late free-kick cancelled out by Lazio's Libor Kozák deep into added time.
Gareth Bale netted a brace of free-kicks as Tottenham Hotspur FC overcame Olympique Lyonnais, though the Ligue 1 team's Samuel Umtiti scored arguably the goal of the night – a rocket of a shot early in the second half.