Chelsea through, Inter out in Europa League
LONDON — Chelsea staged a thrilling comeback to beat Steaua Bucharest 3-1 and reach the Europa League quarterfinals, but Inter Milan failed to advance despite a second-leg recovery of its own on a breathless night of last-16 action on Thursday.
John Terry and Fernando Torres scored second-half goals to help Chelsea, the reigning European champion, squeeze past Steaua 3-2 on aggregate at Stamford Bridge.
Trailing 3-0 from the first leg, Inter thrashed Tottenham 4-1 at the San Siro for a 4-4 aggregate scoreline but exited on the away-goals rule, with Emmanuel Adebayor’s extra-time strike proving decisive.
“We put on a truly great performance, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough,” Inter captain Javier Zanetti said. “We gave it everything we had.”
The match was marred by apparent racist abuse by Inter fans toward Adebayor, and Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas expects UEFA to take action.
“It was very, very easy to hear the chanting so I am sure that UEFA will act on it,” Villas-Boas said.
Newcastle completed an English clean sweep into the last eight thanks to Papiss Cisse’s stoppage-time winner against Anzhi Makhachkala, partly making up for the failure of any Premier League team to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in 17 years.
Basel avoided extra time thanks to a late penalty save by Yann Sommer from Roman Shirokov, which meant the Swiss team only lost 1-0 at 2008 winner Zenit St. Petersburg and went through 2-1 overall.
Rubin Kazan ensured there would be Russian representation in the last eight as extra-time goals by Jose Rondon and Vladimir Dyadyun saw off Levante 2-0 on the night and on aggregate.
Lazio and Benfica won their second legs to go through comfortably, while Fenerbahce was the other team to progress.
While Chelsea always had the capacity to overturn its first-leg deficit against Steaua, Inter was given little hope of rescuing its match against Tottenham after being thumped at White Hart Lane last week.
Crucially, though, Inter’s tormentor in the first leg — Gareth Bale — was missing through suspension and
Inter’s star attacker Antonio Cassano delivered a great performance that almost sent the Italian side through.
The Italy striker opened the scoring in the 20th with a header, set up Rodrigo Palacio for his goal in the 52nd and then provided the shot that William Gallas deflected into his own net in the 75th, which took the game into extra time.
Cassano also crossed for Ricardo Alvarez to head home past goalkeeper Brad Friedel in the second half of extra time but Adebayor had already prodded in from close range in the 96th to give Tottenham a precious cushion, although the visitors had to withstand some nervy moments late on.
Italian media were speculating that the job of Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni was on the line heading into the match, after the heavy loss against Spurs and a run of just three wins in 13 matches in Serie A. The manner of his team’s elimination should leave him with some leverage.
“In terms of the football we played, this was our best performance (of the season),” Stramaccioni said. “The lads did a great job of working out what was needed, and shrugging off their fears. It’s just a shame about the result and the goal we conceded from a moment’s lapse in concentration.”
Chelsea’s turbulent season in Europe continues but only after being given a major scare by a club whose glory days were back in the 1980s, when Steaua twice reached the European Cup final — winning it once.
When Vlad Chiriches canceled out Juan Mata’s 34th-minute opener on the stroke of halftime, Chelsea needed to score twice to go through.
Terry headed in Mata’s free kick in the 58th before Torres slid home a fine finish for only his third goal in 18 appearances in 2013. The oft-criticized Spain striker hit the crossbar with a penalty three minutes from time, but Chelsea wasn’t made to pay.
“It was important for him but the main thing was it was important for the team,” Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said of Torres’ goal. “We knew he was close (to scoring) — hopefully this will be the first of a lot.”
Progression added to Chelsea’s hectic fixture schedule, with the team now facing six games in 16 days across three competitions — Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League — after the international break later this month.
Libor Kozak grabbed a hat trick in Lazio’s 3-1 victory over Stuttgart, which sealed a 5-1 victory on aggregate.
Oscar Cardozo scored twice as Benfica beat Bordeaux 3-2 away, going through 4-2 overall.
The draw for the quarterfinals takes place in Nyon, Switzerland on Friday.