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Page last updated at 22:27 GMT, Thursday, 24 February 2011

Europa League as it happened


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By Chris Whyatt

2225: So that's it. Four hours of rollercoaster Europa League action comes to a shuddering halt - some of it wildly exciting, some of it mildly dull. Bit like a rollercoaster. Time for me to go! Thanks for all your chat. See you Saturday for a Premier League baguette or five.

David Ornstein's full-time snapshot: "So City live up to their billing as competition favourites with a demolition of Aris that will be noted around Europe. Roberto Mancini's men are hungry for this trophy and, on this evidence, they will take some stopping."

Mandeep Sanghera's full-time snapshot: "Sparta Prague gave Liverpool some scares but the Reds created plenty of chances and, in the end, Dirk Kuyt proved the difference."

2215: Nearly done here folks, but still time for a quick recap...

Benfica (Portugal) vs. Paris Saint-Germain (France)
Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) vs. Manchester City (England)
FC Twente (Netherlands) vs. Zenit St. Petersburg (Russia)
CSKA Moscow (Russia) vs. FC Porto (Portugal)
PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands) vs Rangers (Scotland)
Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) vs. Villarreal (Spain)
Ajax (Netherlands) vs. Spartak Moscow (Russia)
Liverpool (England) vs. Braga (Portugal)

The above first leg fixtures to be played on Thursday 10 March. The return legs to be played the following week, on Thursday 17 March.

Man City manager Roberto Mancini: "First half we played very well. It was important to start well. It was the first time those three strikers had played together, and they need to do it again. Kiev is a big team who have always played in the Champions League. They will be difficult."

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Greig Sturges 'doing uni work' texts in: "Mancini will never play with 3 strikers and Silva in the Premiership. It's only because you are playing 'who are they United'..."

Europa League Danny: "Full-times. Ajax 2-0 Anderlecht (aggregate 5-0). Braga 2-0 Lech Poznan (agg 2-1) Dynamo Kiev 4-0 Besiktas (agg 8-1). FC Twente 2-2 Rubin Kazan (agg 4-2). Man City 3-0 Aris Salonika (agg 3-0). PSG 0-0 BATE Borisov (agg 2-2 - PSG through on away goals). Stuttgart 0-2 Benfica (agg 1-4). Villarreal 2-1 Napoli (agg 2-1). The noteworthy bits - Kiev, who thrashed Besiktas, play Manchester City in the last 16. And Braga win on the night to set up a tie with Liverpool."

Man City's two-goal striker Edin Dzeko tells ESPN: "I'm very happy. It was not as easy as the result shows. The early goals were very important. I can play much better though. I should have scored a hat-trick."

2200: So City did what they have to and, in truth, look like a Champions league team in waiting. Not on that performance, but certainly with their sheer weight of talent in their side. Can see why they're favourites for this Europa League trophy. To confirm, they'll face Dynamo Kiev for a place in the quarter finals. Enticing. Liverpool play Portuguese side Braga.

Carl in Yoxall texts in: "Lescott starting to look like the Everton player we bought."

Full time

2152: Sea of yellow that Aris section of Eastlands. They've had an absolute ball, despite their team being as sharp as soggy candy floss in the final third. Not long to go now. Talking of yellow, Kolarov is cautioned for a late challenge. Needless really.

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Chris [doing 'the Poznan' at work] texts in: "Glad we've proved all three strikers can play together with Silva in there too. Positive football we've been crying out for, especially at home."

Europa League Danny: "Wow. Oscar Cardozo belts in a cracking free-kick off the inside of the post. Stuttgart 0-2 Benfica (1-4 on aggregate). The Portuguese side all but through. By the way, a big shout out to anonymous who texts to ask: 'Is Europa League Danny capable of giving an update without giving a shout out to a fan or something or other?'"

2143: Captain Carlos Tevez is off, feet up on the bench now ahead of Fulham's visit. Patrick Viera has replaced him. 'England's number one' chant City fans at Joe Hart. Not his most testing evening.

Europa League Danny: "Dynamo Kiev 4-0 Besiktas (agg 8-1). I'll drink the Adriatic too for good measure (see 2130)."

Toure goal: Kolarov's corner is cleared by Aris defenders yet Yaya Toure is there to collect it 30 yards out. His low shot possesses all the venom of a tiny grass snake but, still, it deflects off Faty to spin past Sifakis for City's third. Game over.


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Ste from Altrincham texts in: "With Chelsea and Liverpool away, and our bogey teams Everton and Spurs still to play, I have a bad feeling about 4th. So, uhhhhhhh, a cup will do nicely for City."

Europa League Danny: "Dynamo Kiev 3-0 Besiktas (agg 7-1). If Besiktas come back from this, I'll eat Europe. That's a promise."

Not again. He once tried to nibble on the Isle of Man, you know.

2130: Nearly three. Tevez plays in Balotelli but the Italian's side-footer, from an angle 12 yards out, comes back off the post before he unleashes a typical snarl. You get the sense this stage is too low key for him. And City's other stars. Bigger tests await.

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Richard, en route to Manchester, texts in: "I'm desperate to 'do the Poznan' but I doubt anyone will join in on this train."

2125: Kolarov drags a long-ranger wide. Nice skill from Silva. Megs! Never forget a Luis Aragones comment on the small Spaniard, something about him having a huge amount of courage (but said using a metaphor I won't repeat). He certainly never hides.

Europa League Danny: "Dynamo Kiev are now 2-0 up against Besiktas thanks to Andriy Yarmolenko and it's fair to say they've put that one to bed - it's now 6-1 on aggregate. So, Man City fans, if you can hold on against Aris, you might want to start checking out flights to Ukraine (fans of spelling things out will want me to add 'because City will play Kiev in the last 16')."

2120: Aris probing but City, chugging along, have definitely shifted down a gear. Tevez caught offside. A lot of fouls being called now. Visiting fans roar themselves hoarse.

2116: Apologies for the confusion. City can, of course, win the Europa League AND qualify for the Champions League. You never know. I was just asking for a vote either way. Be interesting to know which they, or their fans, would really prefer. No trophy for 35 years, don't forget. So, what do you think?

2113: Hat-trick hunting Dzeko thumps in a tame shot packing as much danger as a cuddly toy. That earlier Kompany injury was a result of an elbow to the hip, we understand.

Europa League Danny: "Scare averted - it would seem - for FC Twente. They've now levelled against Rubin Kazan, so it's 2-2 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate. The winner, don't forget, meets Zenit St Petersburg."

2110: Right, that's my silly half a second over with. City killed this game early on. Training match stuff now. Aris fans really enjoying their night. Neto appeals for a penalty. The ref not buying it... sorry.

2107: Second half is under way at Eastlands. C'mon, 'do the Poznan' with your pals if you haven't already...

Europa League Danny: "Quick turnaround fans will be noting events at Villarreal with interest, where the home team notched two swift ones to take a 2-1 lead on the night (and on aggregate) against Napoli."

2103: City are favourites to win the Europa League. Agree with that? Also, do you think they'd rather win it to lift their first trophy since 1976 - or qualify for the Champions League? You can't have both...

BillyDutnall on Twitter: "I really think Dzeko will be a totally class player. Future star."

David Ornstein's half-time snap-shot:
"Two goals for Dzeko and surely that's two feet in the Europa League last 16 for Roberto Mancini's men. Aris have offered little to nothing. The blue moon is well and truly rising."

Half time

2050: Must be a Dzeko hat-trick... must be ... no! He's wasted the one-on-one created by Silva after dallying when attempting to round the keeper, who gets a touch on the ball as the Bosnian tries to knock it past. One minute of additional time.

2047: Silva chisels a lofted pass over the top for an army of team-mates who are all free to race through on goal, but Balotelli is flagged offside. Wrongly, says I (with the benefit of a TV replay).

Europa League Danny: "Rodrigo Lima has put Braga 2-0 up at home against Lech Poznan and 2-1 on aggregate. The Portuguese side now looking like favourites to bag that last-16 tie against Liverpool."

2044: More terrible defending from Lazaridis lets grafter Tevez pick up the ball on the edge of the box but his effort is deflected wide. Always gets his shot off that boy: fine lesson for the kids.

Europa League Danny: "Technique. Eduardo Salvio firest Benfica into the lead at Stuttgart. Cracking first time strike through a crowded penalty area and into the corner - reminiscent of a young Europa League Danny, if I may say. It's Stuttgart 0-1 Benfica and that's 1-3 on aggregate."

2040: Hello again. That was fun. Now. Have hips ever actually lied? Vincent Kompany may disagree with Shakira, because he's had to traipse off with a knock to his left hip. Replaced by Pablo Zabaleta.

2038: Much of Eastlands are not actually watching the match: they're 'doing the Poznan' of course. For the uninitiated, that means facing away from the play with your arms around the next person while bouncing up and down. Something like that. Shall we all give it a go? See you back here in a second, okay.

OptaJoe on Twitter: "Rangers have won only one of their last 17 European games yet have progressed to the Europa League last 16. Snooker."

Europa League Danny: "Plenty going on. Rubin Kazan have taken a 2-0 lead at FC Twente thanks to two goals inside the first 25 minutes. That tie is 2-2 on aggregate and totally all square. A seemingly easy night for the Dutch just got tougher... Meanwhile, Napoli lead Villarreal 1-0 on the night and 1-0 on aggregate. It's an away goal too, so the Spanish side needs two."

2032: Man City boss Roberto Mancini - anyone remember his decent 'Don't Look Back in Anger' Oasis joke earlier this season? - has impressed many of you with these attacking tactics, from what I can tell by the texts. I concur. They have the talent, so why not use it. Aris stringing some passes together now though.

Arkwright on Twitter: "Greetings from Poland! The locals are hoping Lech Poznan will beat Braga tonight, a tie v Liverpool awaits! Come on Poznan!"

2027: Get the feeling City's glittering array of players might like to prove just who's the most talented tonight. Awesome Tevez graft earns a free-kick which Balotelli fires into the keeper Sifakis's arms from all of 30 yards. Aris will need a goal before half time.

Europa League Danny: "Did someone say 'rout'? Ajax are already 2-0 up on Anderlecht - and that's on top of being 3-0 up from the first leg. They're goal greedy, in my opinion."

2022: Quick pointer to news on the hamstring injury which will keep Fabregas out of Sunday's Carling Cup final. Big blow for Arsenal. Come back here though, won't you.

Europa League Danny: "Any hope Besiktas had looks like being quickly snuffed out - they're 1-0 down thanks to Ognjen Vukojevic's third-minutes strike for Dynamo Kiev - who are now 5-1 up on aggregate. The winners of that tie - let's face it, it's Kiev - play the winners of Man City v Aris. Osorio Alan puts Braga 1-0 up on Lech Poznan. So that is absolutely level at 1-1. Liverpool await the winners there, remember? I did."

Dzeko goal: Lovely goal from the big Bosnian as he accepts a pass from Tevez, shifts inside cleverly, then curls in a powerful low shot with his left foot right in the corner he placed his last one. A header needed now for the perfect hat-trick. City attacking hard.


Dzeko goal: Super-long pump from Kolarov at left-back is met with a calamitous stumble by Lazaridis, who cannot decide whether to head or volley clear and ends up thighing it limply. Dzeko pounces to steady himself before cracking a low finish inside the far post. Slick.


BBC Radio Scotland pundit Billy Dodds: "Rangers are dogs of war and got to the final like this a few years ago. They looked down and out and needed a lift from somewhere. They truly got that tonight."

2008: Kolarov's already whipped a free-kick over the bar. His left foot could peel a grape. Superb. Balotelli looking dangerous. Magnificent crowd at Eastlands with 5,000 Greeks making themselves audible. Earplugs optional.

2005: Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli, Silva. All starting. My. So we're under way at Eastlands...

Europa League Danny: "A quick run through of yer 2005 GMT kick-offs. Ajax v Anderlecht (agg 3-0). Braga v Lech Poznan (agg 0-1). Dynamo Kiev v Besiktas (agg 4-1). FC Twente v Rubin Kazan (agg 2-0). Paris SG v BATE Borisov (agg 2-2). Stuttgart v Benfica (agg 1-2). Villarreal v Napoli (agg 0-0). Tension. And remember, the winners of Braga v Lech Poznan will face Liverpool in the last 16."


2000: Manchester City's £100m-plus attack up soon vs Aris. But an interesting news line from Arsenal first...

Europa League Danny: "Some other full-times for you. Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 FC Metalist Kharkiv (agg 6-0). PSV Eindhoven 3-1 Lille (agg 5-3). Spartak Moscow 1-1 Basle (agg 4-3). So, Bayer Leverkusen, and Spartak Moscow go through - as do PSV, who will play Rangers in the last 16."

1958: Did you keep up with that late drama? Phew. So, Liverpool through and they will play Lech Poznan or Braga in the last 16.

Full time

Edu goal: Stunning last-gasp winner from Maurice Edu to put Rangers into the last 16. Fine play for Healy to zip one low across the six-yard box as Edu, onside, prods home from a couple of yards out. Great courage.


Full time

1948: Good chance for Rangers! Healy has a Gazza 1996 moment as he just fails to connect with a low whipped cross from Weiss. That could have put them through. At Anfield, Ngog's shot is saved brilliantly by Blazek. Great stop. Coles then puts a one-on-one wide. Irrelevant...

Kuyt goal: Contrasting fortunes as Liverpool eye the last 16 in simple fashion. All that hard work pays off for Dirk Kuyt as he finds space in the box to nod a Meireles corner low past Blazek. Harsh on Sparta. Joy for Anfield.

Djalo goal: Heartbreak for Rangers. They'll be gutted to concede and disappointed at the simplicity of the goal. Joao Perreira finds himself wide on the right and whips in a cross which eludes everyone bar Yannick Djalo who nods in at the far post with the minimum of fuss.



1941: Daniel Agger limps off at Anfield. Hopefully not reoccurrence of his old injury problems. Repka concedes a free kick as an unpublishable chant bounces down The Kop towards him on the pitch. In Portugal, Healy replaces Diouf. But...

1939: Fifteen minutes to go in Lisbon and it's totally in the balance. Sporting probably looking the more threatening right now - as you'd expect for a home team. But Rangers still threatening on the break. Remember, if Gers score, the Portuguese need two or they're out of this. Half-chance! Diouf crosses but Postiga clears with Lafferty waiting to pounce.

1937: It's Groundhog Day every few minutes or so at Anfield. No real conviction in final third. This time Danny Wilson's low cross is met weakly by Dirk Kuyt as Blazek easily gathers his low left-footer.

Europa League Danny: "PSV now 3-1 up on the night on Lille and 5-3 on aggregate. They look firm favourites to go through now, and worth noting that they'll play the winners of Sporting v Rangers in the last 16."

David Ornstein reports: "City make four changes from the side that thrashed Notts County in the FA Cup on Saturday. Jerome Boateng and Vincent Komany step in for Micah Richards and Kolo Toure at the back, while Gareth Barry and captain Carlos Tevez are preferred to Pablo Zabaleta and Patrick Vieira - meaning a three-pronged attack of Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. Aris, meanwhile, are unchanged from the first leg so Raul Bobadilla leads the line with Juan Toja providing support from an advanced central midfield role."

1932: Still heading for extra time and penalties on Merseyside and in Lisbon ATS [As Things Stand]. Kuyt has no socks. Not literally, I just mean that he really has worked them off. But Anfield craves some craft. Again Ngog has a sniff but he cannot convert. Gerrard has his head in his hands in the stands. Repka arguing with The Kop!

Europa League Danny: "It's all going a bit wrong for Lille. Down to 10 men, they now find themselves 2-1 down on the night and 4-3 on aggregate thanks to Jeremain Lens of PSV. If they score, mind, that one's bound for extra-time. Meanwhile, Michael Ballack has put Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 ahead against FC Metalist Kharkiv. The Germans are 6-0 up on aggregate, safe to say they're through."

1926: Joe Cole's header flies wide at Anfield after a Dirk Kuyt rocket is blocked. Liverpool working hard, it cannot be denied. They'd only have two matches in March if they go out tonight. In Portugal, I can tell you that we've had chances at both ends. First, Steven Davis has a point-blank header for Rangers but Rui Patricio is ideally placed to save. Sporting break and Allan McGregor's legs save a low drive from Joao Perreira when it seemed easier to score. Pedro Mendes firest the rebound way over the top.

David Ornstein reports: "City boss Roberto Mancini reckons a strong run in the Europa League would offer ideal preparation for a crack at next season's Champions League should his side qualify. For the first part of that wish to remain a possibility, City must beat little-known Aris Salonika in tonight's last-16 second leg. There was little to choose between the pair in Greece last week but Aris have won just one of their last eight games and should provide relatively easy pickings. City will certainly hope so."

Europa League Danny: "Fans of people turning from hero to zero might enjoy the work of Pierre-Alain Frau of Lille this evening. Having put the French side ahead at PSV, he's now gone and got himself sent off for two yellow cards."

1922: Poulsen is taken off at Anfield with Liverpool huffing and puffing somewhat. Jay Spearing trots on.

Man City: Hart, Boateng, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Silva, Toure Yaya, Barry, Tevez, Dzeko, Balotelli.
Subs: Taylor, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Vieira, Jo, Toure, Wabara.
Aris Salonika: Sifakis, Vangeli, Guiaro, Lazaridis, Michel, Prittas, Faty, Neto, Toja, Bobadilla, Sakata.
Subs: Juanma, Oriol, Cesarec, Koke, Kaznaferis, Mendrinos.
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)

1918: Nice footwork from Joe Cole but his low shot easily saved. Still looks a yard or two short of match fitness, and sharpness.

1916: Let-off for Rangers. Periera breaks their flimsy offside trap but, unmarked and with plenty of time to even bring the ball down, he heads a Pedro Mendes cross over the bar. Still scrappy at Anfield. Liverpool doing more defending than attacking. Sparta enjoying it.

Europa League Danny: "It's PSV 1-1 Lille thanks to a PSV leveller from Balazs Dzsudzsak - and my keyboard hopes he doesn't score again. That one's 3-3 on aggregate, but PSV have the away goals advantage. Tense times."

Infostrada Sports on Twitter: "Jamie Carragher is on for his 137th European match, a British record and one more than Ryan Giggs."

1910: Woeful technique from unfortunate Ngog as he connects, filthily, with an attempted shot. Meanwhile, in Portugal, Rangers keeper McGregor scrambles high to clear the ball from his top corner as a Matias Fernandez free-kick nearly creeps in.

1907: Five goals in seven games for Portuguese midfielder Meireles, but he's not found his range yet tonight. Nice volleyed attempt but well wide. Always looks spark and creative though.

1904: And Sporting get the second half under way in Portugal...

1902: Jamie Carragher's coming on for... Martin Kelly. He's got a slight injury problem we hear. He'll be missed going forward. Second half is under way at Anfield. Stay tuned.

GarrethHawkins on Twitter:"Sparta have to be going in at half time the happier team, a goal from them now really puts pressure on Liverpool!"

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Anonymous texts in: "Poulsen looking worse than Carrick. What did Roy see in him? Shambolic 'footballer'..."

HALF-TIME Sporting 0-0 Rangers
Andy Campbell's HT snapshot:
"It's finely, finely poised at half-time with Rangers having got the away goal they needed but Sporting striking back to level the aggregate score. Both defences have looked vulnerable at times during the first half with the home side having slightly more chances. Rangers took their goal well with El Hadji Diouf heading home but Pedro Mendes, a former Ibrox favourite, swept home the leveller with aplomb. It's going to be a interesting second half."

Half time
HALF-TIME Liverpool 0-0 Sparta Prague
Mandeep Sanghera's HT snapshot:
"Plenty of mistakes but it's certainly making for some entertainment, although neither side has the cutting edge in front of goal to capitalise."

Half time


1848: Extra-time and penalties looming in both matches, as things stand...

Mendes goal: Ball whipped over not dealt with by Kyle Bartley, who lets it run off his body to Helder Postiga. He lays back to Pedro Mendes who beautifully passes the ball into the corner of McGregor's goal from 18 yards. Fine strike but could have been avoided.


1844: It's gone scrappy at Anfield. Lots of free kicks, yellow cards being dished out. Kelly the only real bright spark.

1842: Sporting's Joao Pereira goes over in the Rangers box. Hmmmmmmm. No penalty, insists our referee (in spite of the loud howls of protest ringing around the ground).

1840: Sporting look as nervous as you'd expect a team which has conceded seven goals in the past three league games to be. Yannick Djalo's lively bursts down the left appear to be the most likely source of home team joy - but without a better final ball, the Portuguese side will be in trouble.

1837: Pub football at Anfield! Thinking there's no danger, Thomas Repka lets the ball drift over his head yet Dirk Kuyt steals in to square for Ngog. But his high shot is saved with only the keeper to beat, and he punches the ball away to genuine safety with Joe Cole unwilling to get in the way of his swirling fist.

1834: Poor long-ranger from Ngog. Not sure he'll keep Suarez and Carroll out when they're both eligible and fit. I could be wrong. What do you lot think?

1832: Sparta's Pamic, who looked pretty tasty in the first leg, is booked for a niggle with Ngog. Agger then pounds a header back across the box but the Czech side clear. In Portugal, Pedro Mendes fires one well wide for the hosts - who now need a goal themselves.

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Anonymous texts in: "What I love about KK is that whether Gerrard could have started from the bench he saying to the rest of the first team 'you win this, don't expect Captain Marvel to come off the bench' - great psychology!"

Europa League Danny: "Your first goal in the 1800 GMT kick-offs came when Scott Chipperfield put Basle 1-0 ahead at Spartak Moscow. That levels things on aggregate at 3-3 - but the Russian side have the advantage on away goals. Meanwhile, Pierre-Alain Frau has put Lille 1-0 up at PSV Eindhoven and the French side now lead 3-2 on aggregate. Three of the five away sides in the 1800 GMT kick-offs now ahead - Liverpool watch out."

1825: Plenty of goalmouth action at Anfield. Reina misses a Sparta cross to cause uneasy confusion in his box. But Kelly whips over yet another superb cross which Meireles can only half-volley into row Q. Should have scored. Joe Cole then drops a shoulder or three to get off shot off, forcing a perfunctory block from Blazek. Breathless.

Diouf goal: Steven Davis finds plenty of space on the right to float over a decent cross. Where's the Portuguese marking? Diouf doesn't care as he steers a fine header low past Patricio without fuss. Half of Glasgow goes wild.


1821: Rangers coming back into things at the Jose Alvalade Stadium, but it's a bit scrappy and very tense. A reminder that a 0-0 draw would put Sporting through by virtue of their away goal in the first leg at Ibrox - Rangers have to score tonight.

1819: Close call! Meireles lands the corner on the forehead of Kyrgiakos and his low effort is saved well at the foot of the post. The Greek got a bloody mouth for his aerial bravery there.

1816: No Glen Johnson for Liverpool, by the way, because yesterday he was complaining of a pain in his Achilles. "So we left him out as a precaution," said Kenny pre-kick off. Kelly doing a fine job so far as his replacement as he forces a corner with another smart surge...

1813: Sparta 'boy wonder' Vaclav Kadlec volleys over Pepe Reina's goal. No real danger there, as injured captain Steven Gerrard looks on from the hospitality box wearing a natty lumberjack shirt. In Portugal, Alberto Zapater is booked for a reckless challenge on Steven Whittaker. Daniel Agger skies a free kick over at Anfield.

1810: At Anfield, Martin Kelly steams down the right wing to ping a cross back for Raul Meireles. But the in-form midfielder shanks his shot-on-the-turn high into the boisterous crowd. Sporting have made the better start in Lisbon, Rangers not really in it yet.

1807: While over in Portugal, hesitant Rangers defending lets Sporting's Yannick Djalo steal in to pop off a low shot which Allan McGregor parries behind for a corner.

1805: Medium-large handball shout at Anfield! Manuel Pamic does handle in the box after his air-shot of a clearance. It was definitely hugely accidental. But if it hadn't happened Dirk Kuyt would have had a free shot on goal. Tricky one. Joe Cole floats a deep cross onto the net's roof. Good start from the hosts at Anfield.

1802: And a little less promptly, Rangers get us under way against Sporting in Lisbon. This is knockout football now.

1800: Dalglish lifts his arms up to touch the famous 'This is Anfield' sign as Liverpool stream out of the tunnel to a raucous reception. No Gerrard, Suarez, Johnson, Carroll. Time for some lesser lights to step up? And we're away...

Europa League Danny: "So, a brilliant comeback from Zenit St Petersburg sees them pull back a 3-1 aggregate deficit to beat Young Boys 4-3. They will face either Rubin Kazan or FC Twente in the last 32."

1756: Full house at Anfield with 3,000 Sparta fans also making their presence known. I say full house... but some of you texting in that you're struggling to make kick off. Can't remember many 1800 GMT kick offs myself. Not an easy for diligent office workers and the like.

Rangers boss Walter Smith: "We'll go with a back five. We did that in the Champions League and it was reasonably successful so hopefully it can be for us tonight. We'll have to start scoring ourselves, we did not badly against Motherwell (when we won 6-0). We've been trying different players in different positions, so hopefully we'll see what El Hadji Diouf can do up front for us tonight."

1752: Tension building. Less than 10 minutes to kick off at a spring-tinged Anfield. And in Portugal for that matter...

Super-relaxed Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish tells Channel Five: "Everybody's really looking forward to this. If you can't get up for the big European night at Anfield, well. It's going to be difficult. The responsibility and onus is on us to try and go and win the game."

BBC Sport's Andy Campbell reports: "With Nikica Jelavic ineligble, Steven Naismith injured and Kyle Lafferty left out of the starting line-up, El Hadji Diouf leads the line for the visitors, supported by youngster John Fleck."

Europa League Danny: "Drama. Roman Shirokov has put Zenit St Petersburg 3-1 ahead against Young Boys. The Swiss side led 1-0 on the night - but Zenit are now 4-3 up on aggregate."

curtis1604 on Twitter: "I can picture the scene tonight: "And now leaving the field, Joe Cole. Replaced by, making his Anfield debut, Ronan Keating!"

1738: To clarify, that's Joe Cole's first start under Kenny Dalglish. If ever a player needed a colossal confidence injection flooding his veins. No doubt the manager has been reminding Cole, who has struggled at Anfield so far, of his undoubted gifts. Big night for him?

Mandeep Sanghera reports: "Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish makes four changes from the side which drew 0-0 at Sparta Prague last week. Playmaker Joe Cole, right-back Martin Kelly, centre-back Daniel Agger and midfielder Christian Poulsen come in as Glen Johnson and Fabio Aurelio miss out completely, while Jamie Carragher and Maxi Rodriguez drop to the bench. Steven Gerrard is not risked by the Reds. Sparta Prague make one change from the first leg as midfielder Libor Sionko replaces Andrej Keric."

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Dan, in sunny but not so still Edinburgh, texts in: "Just sat in my hotel bar overlooking Edinburgh Castle... Oh go on then. Come on King Kenny!"

BBC Sport's Andy Campbell reports: "We're soon to get underway at Estádio José Alvalade where Rangers need an away goal against Sporting to stay in the Europa League. This could be Walter Smith's last European match in charge of Rangers with the veteran manager handing on the reins to assistant Ally McCoist in the summer. This is also a bit of a pressure match for Sporting, whose domestic league challenge has faltered this season and rumours abounding that coach Paulo Sergio will be dispensed with if they are eliminated from Europe. It could be a cracker, it could be cagey but one team's European dream is sure to end in Lisbon tonight."

1724: And Rangers in Lisbon? Let's make the virtual journey from Merseyside to the Portuguese coast...

Mandeep Sanghera reports: "Can King Kenny register a win in his first European tie in charge of Liverpool? Well, it may be the Europa League but the Anfield legend will have most of a sell-out crowd trying to inspire his side to victory against Sparta Prague. The Reds go into the game unbeaten in seven outings and face a Czech side who have not won in five games in England since beating Watford 3-2 on 23 November 1983 - a game in which their current manager Jozef Chovanec played."

1720: Interesting, I hear you cry, but what about tonight's game at Anfield (KO 1800 GMT). Over to our match reporter...


Europa League Danny: "'Two become one' sang the Spice Girls in 1996. And, were they still together, they could've penned a similar tune about tonight's action called '32 become 16'. Yes, tonight we see a halving of the hopefuls. The cull has already begun - CSKA Moscow and Porto are through from matches earlier this week. Among those in early action on Thursday are Young Boys, who are now tied 3-3 (on aggregate) with Zenit St Petersburg in the second half. At 1800 GMT, Bayer Leverkusen take a 4-0 first leg lead into their home game against FC Metalist Kharkiv. PSV Eindhoven's tie against Lille is finely poised at 2-2, while Spartak Moscow have a slender 3-2 lead against Basle."

1716: Would one like to see the menu? First up a club looking very revived by an all-time hero, that's Kenny Dalglish's Liverpool taking on Sparta Prague (0-0). And at the same time Sporting Lisbon host Rangers (1-1), with the Scots no doubt aching to put a painful derby defeat to Celtic behind them. Later on - though don't forget extra time and penalties could occur in any of these games - we have a team eagerly looking to get closer to a first trophy since 1976, as Man City welcome Greek side Aris Salonika (0-0) to Eastlands. All very finely poised after fairly cagey first legs. With a liberal sprinkling of the rest the Europa League action. Plenty to chew on...

Text in your views on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (worldwide)
1713: Yep. King Kenny snapped up Ronan Keating's offer of a pair of two tickets. And who better to take than your new £35m striker? Marvellous. Welcome to our brink-of the-last-16 Europa League coverage. Been a lovely day here in London, still and sunny. How are you? Where in the world are you following the action? Do get involved with all your Europa League thoughts - and random player-manager night out combinations - over the next four hours or so. Feel free to Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball. You can also fire a question at me direct on @whyattchris or, of course, you can text us on 81111 (UK).

1710: Fergie begging Nani to go see the Arctic Monkeys with him. Houllier dragging Marc Albrighton along to see Tinie Tempah. Dalglish going to a Boyzone concert with Andy Carroll. McCarthy trying to find Kevin Doyle among the jubilant crowd at an Olly Murs gig. The weird world of football just gets better. One of them is actually true...

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Europa League results

24 Feb 2011 23:59 UK

  • Ajax2-0Anderlecht
    FT (agg 5-0)
  • Bayer Leverkusen2-0FC Metalist Kharkiv
    FT (agg 6-0)
  • Braga2-0Lech Poznan
    FT (agg 2-1)
  • Dynamo Kiev4-0Besiktas
    FT (agg 8-1)
  • FC Twente2-2Rubin Kazan
    FT (agg 4-2)
  • Liverpool1-0Sparta PragueFT (agg 1-0)
  • Man City3-0Aris SalonikaFT (agg 3-0)
  • Paris SG0-0BATE Borisov
    FT (agg 2-2) PSG win on away goals rule
  • PSV Eindhoven3-1Lille
    FT (agg 5-3)
  • Spartak Moscow1-1Basle
    FT (agg 4-3)
  • Sporting2-2RangersFT (agg 3-3) Rangers win on away goals rule
  • VfB Stuttgart0-2Benfica
    FT (agg 1-4)
  • Villarreal2-1Napoli
    FT (agg 2-1)
  • Zenit St P'sbg3-1Young Boys
    FT (agg 4-3)

see also
Thursday's football photos
24 Feb 11 |  Football

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