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Soccer-Spurs restore English pride after stunning fightback

Reuters

By Mike Collett

LONDON, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur restored some pride to English soccer by succeeding where Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City all failed over the last two weeks by winning a match in Europe.

Spurs came from behind at White Hart Lane on Thursday to score a sensational 3-1 win for a 3-2 aggregate success over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk of Ukraine to reach the last 16 of the Europa League.

They are the Premier League's last surviving representative in the competition after Swansea City were eliminated following a 3-1 defeat to Napoli.

Swansea became the fifth Premier League team, including Spurs, to lose a European game this month following the 2-0 defeats suffered by Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City to Bayern Munich, Olympiakos and Barcelona respectively in the first legs of their Champions League Round of 16 ties.

Spurs were beaten 1-0 by Dnipro, managed by their former manager Juande Ramos, in the first leg of their Round of 32 matchup last week but bounced back to clinch the tie on Thursday.

So far Chelsea, who drew 1-1 with Galatasaray in the first leg of their Champions League tie in Turkey are the only Premier League team to have avoided defeat.

EPIC SEMI-FINAL

Spurs's victory now means they face Benfica in the Round of 16 for a first continental clash since their epic 1962 European Cup semi-final which the Portuguese side won 4-3 on aggregate before retaining the trophy with a 5-3 win over Real Madrid.

Benfica won the first leg 3-1 in front of 70,000 fans in Lisbon while Spurs won the second leg 2-1 in front of a 64,448 crowd at White Hart Lane, the biggest crowd ever to watch a European match there.

On Thursday, a crowd of 34,815 saw two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor - who has now scored 11 goals in 15 matches this season - and a freekick from Christian Eriksen give Spurs what seemed an unlikely win after Dnipro extended their aggregate lead when Roman Zozulya headed them in front early in the second half.

But the game turned when Zozulya was dismissed after 63 minutes for head-butting Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen.

Losing his self-control completely, he had to be restrained by Adebayor bouncer-style before storming off the field like an incensed child.

Spurs had equalised shortly before the sending off through Eriksen for what proved to be the first of three goals in a maniacal 13 minute spell.

Manager Tim Sherwood said afterwards: "I was convinced before the game we needed three goals to win it and I think we responded very, very well once we went behind.

"We showed a lot of character tonight. We knew we had to go out and turn the tie around. It's one thing talking about it, but you have to go out and do it and we did that tonight.".

Spurs will host the first leg against Benfica, beaten in last season's final by Chelsea, on March 13 with the return at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon a week later.

On Wednesday, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said that despite the poor set of results he believed it was too early to judge whether English clubs were in decline in European competition.

Ironically it was Arsenal's near neighbours and arch-rivals who proved he may have a point.

Napoli, who saw off Swansea's challenge will meat Porto in another intriguing Round of 16 tie while Serie A rivals Juventus and Fiorentina will face each other in an all-Italian clash. (Editing by John O'Brien)

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