Only three UEFA Europa League ties are separated by more than a goal after the round of 16 first legs, with Tottenham Hotspur FC and S.S. Lazio best placed to progress.
Article top media content
Tottenham Hotspur FC and S.S. Lazio will have one eye on the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals after impressive victories in their round of 16 first legs on Thursday.
Spurs carved out the biggest advantage of the evening thanks to a 3-0 home win against FC Internazionale Milano. Gareth Bale announced himself to the world against Inter in the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage and the same player continued his scintillating recent form with the opener at White Hart Lane. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen earned Spurs a comfortable victory and took manager André Villas-Boas one step closer to becoming the first coach to win this competition twice.
Spurs' London rivals Chelsea FC, however, have their work cut out if they are to keep alive their hopes of joining the elite band of clubs to have won the full set of European Cup, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League. The Blues lost 1-0 at FC Steaua Bucureşti, Raul Rusescu scoring the only goal from the penalty spot.
Lazio went one better and recorded a 2-0 triumph at VfB Stuttgart, Ederson and Ogenyi Onazi putting them in pole position ahead of next week's return in Germany. Fenerbahçe SK picked up a vital away victory as well, winning 1-0 in the Czech Republic to end FC Viktoria Plzeň's nine-game unbeaten home run in Europe.
SL Benfica also moved tentatively towards a third appearance in the last eight in four seasons, Cédric Carrasso's own goal earning them a slender first-leg cushion over FC Girondins de Bordeaux. As for FC Basel 1893, they lead FC Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 courtesy of late goals from Marcelo Díaz and Alexander Frei.