UEFA Cup: Brits cruise to knockout stages

November 23, 2006

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United, Blackburn Rovers and Rangers secured four berths for British teams in the knockout phase of the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

Spurs won 1-0 at Bayer Leverkusen and Newcastle beat Celta Vigo 2-1 at home to keep both sides top of Groups B and H with a maximum nine points from three games.

Blackburn drew 0-0 away to 2002 title winners Feyenoord in a match in Rotterdam marred by crowd trouble and Rangers twice came from behind to hold AJ Auxerre 2-2 in Burgundy to stay top of Groups E and A on seven points.

Neither Rovers nor the Glasgow club can finish lower than third in their groups, the threshold for a berth in the knockout phase when eight teams from the Champions League will also go into the draw.

Holders Sevilla beat Braga of Portugal 2-0 at home with goals from South Americans Luis Fabiano and Ernesto Chevanton for four points from two games and second place in Group C, two points behind leaders AZ Alkmaar.

Czech side Slovan Liberec crushed Grasshoppers 4-1 at home to climb to third in the group.

Spurs' Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov scored the only goal at Leverkusen's BayArena on his return to his previous club following his 16 million euro ($20.76 million) transfer in the off-season.

At St James' Park, Celta took an early lead when their Uruguayan playmaker Fabian Canobbio curled a left-footed shot into the top left corner of Shay Given's net but they were undone by two headers.

French midfielder Antoine Sibierski headed Newcastle level eight minutes before the interval from James Milner's right wing cross and defender Steven Taylor nodded the winner from Spaniard Albert Luque's corner five minutes from time.

Celta are joint bottom of the group with Eintracht Frankfurt on one point after Fenerbahce's 3-0 home victory over Palermo lifted the Turkish side into second place.

Blackburn are three points ahead of second-placed AS Nancy in Group E after the French side missed a penalty and had to settle for a 2-2 draw at Basel.

Basel's Argentine keeper Franco Costanzo was sent off in injury time for bringing down goal-bound Issiar Dia and with all three substitutions already made, striker Mladen Petric took over in goal and saved Michael Chretien's penalty.

Rangers replied to goals from Auxerre's Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen and Romanian substitute Daniel Niculae with equalisers by Nacho Novo and Kris Boyd, who salvaged a vital point with his 84th-minute strike.

Espanyol climbed above Zulte Waregem to the top of Group F after crushing the Belgian side 6-2 at home with a hat-trick from Luis Garcia and two by Uruguayan Walter Pandiani. Both sides have six points but Espanyol hold a much better goal difference.

Ten-man Ajax Amsterdam, who had defender Urby Emanuelson sent off in the 39th minute, held Sparta Prague 0-0 in the Czech Republic but dropped to third in the group.

Parma, trophy winners in 1995 and 1999, went top of Group D with a 2-1 home win over Heerenveen. Croatian Igor Budan scored both their goals as the Italian side hit back from a goal down.

Hapoel Tel Aviv climbed to second in Group G on four points, two behind leaders Panathinaikos, with a 4-2 victory at Paris St Germain that recalled another Israeli shock at the Parc des Princes 13 years ago when Israel beat France 3-2 in a World Cup