DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 21, 2014
Brad Friedel got a rare start for Tottenham as they saved some face at Benfica while Aron Johannsson and AZ's scoreless draw at Russian opponents Anzhi was enough for a quarterfinal berth.
Benfica 2 - 2 Tottenham (agg. 5-3)
With the team simply looking to avoid further embarrassment after last week's 3-1 loss at White Hart Lane, Brad Friedel helped anchor the team to a respectable 2-2 draw in Portugal on Thursday evening.
Facing the heavy deficit heading into the away leg, the backup-heavy squad was under little pressure to do more than avoid a heavy defeat.
Things looked to be off on the wrong foot when Benfica's Ezequiel Garay put the hosts ahead with a powerful header off of a short Eduardo Salvio cross from the right of the area.
This looked to have effectively ended any vague hopes the visitors had of turning around the deficit, however a brave display in the final minutes did add some late excitement.
First, Nacer Chadli broke into position for a slow looping shot from just outside the penalty area into the lower right corner in the 78th minute, then moments later, the Belgian international added a second on rapid succession as he fired home a short header from Christian Eriksen from short range.
With momentum on their side and knowing that a third goal in the final ten minutes would force overtime, the visitors pushed hard for the breakthrough, but were narrowly thwarted on several occasions.
As the final moments ticked away, the overall result was confirmed when Lima was felled in the area by Sandro, allowing the Brazilian forward to end the threat to Benfica's passage from the spot.
The aggregate 5-3 result in favor of the Portuguese does mean an end to Tottenham's European adventure this season. They will be back in action on Sunday as they try to rescue their hopes of a Champions League spot with a home match against Southampton.
Anzhi Makhachkala 0 - 0 AZ Alkmaar (agg. 0-1)
A strong defensive performance by AZ's starting eleven over a tense 90 minutes on Thursday night at Russian hosts Anzhi was enough to secure a scoreless draw and a place in the Europa League's final eight.
A 1-0 advantage from the home leg left AZ in the position of simply needing to defend their lead, and they did absorb a great deal of early pressure from their hosts.
AZ did have the greatest chance after 33 minutes when Nemanja Gudelj hit the post with a free kick, and were again close just after the break when a Johannsson shot was barely tipped over the bar by Anzhi keeper Mihail Kerzhakov.
The visitors kept a tight defensive shape, possibly aided in part by head coach Dick Advocaat's choice to keep the same cohesively performing 11 players on the field for the full 90 minutes.
Desperate to turn around the deficit, the Russian team was continually frustrated by their guests, which showed in the final moments of added time as Karlen Mkrtchain was shown a straight red for a reckless tackle from behind on Steven Berghuis that essentially sealed the result.
AZ will now face Portuguese powerhouse Benfica over two legs in April's quarterfinal. In the meantime, they will look to bolster their hopes of returning to next season's Europa League when they host Zwolle on Sunday.