Spurs advance in Europa League after game halted
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Tottenham was among nine teams to qualify for the knockout stage of the Europa League on Thursday after beating Partizan Belgrade 1-0 in a match that was briefly suspended because of three separate pitch invasions.
Inter Milan and Napoli also advanced to ensure there will be at least three Italian clubs in the last 32 of Europe’s secondary competition.
Spurs’ victory, secured by Benjamin Stambouli’s 49th-minute winner, was overshadowed by a succession of pitch invasions that forced the referee to halt the game after 41 minutes. It appeared to be an orchestrated PR campaign, with the individuals entering the field of play wearing shirts with the logo of a Tottenham sponsor.
Play resumed after a 10-minute delay but Tottenham faces punishment by organizing body UEFA.
The club said on its Twitter page that the three pitch invaders were arrested and were assisting police with their inquiries.
Besiktas, Celtic, Everton, Dynamo Kiev, Feyenoord and Trabzonspor also progressed Thursday with one group game to spare.
The Group E game between Estoril and PSV Eindhoven was abandoned at halftime after torrential rain in Portugal made the pitch unplayable. UEFA said the game will be completed on Friday, with Estoril leading 3-2 and needing a win to stay alive in the competition.
Tottenham’s Group C game against Partizan was tied at 0-0 when a third pitch invasion by an individual led referee Yevhen Aranovskiy to call players from both teams off the field. The second pitch invader had attempted to take a photo on his mobile phone of himself with Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado.
There were no further disruptions in the second half, during which Stambouli slotted home a rebound into an empty net for his first goal for the club after Soldado’s shot came back off the post.
Spurs top the group and are two points clear of Besiktas ahead of their meeting in two weeks. Besiktas squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Asteras Tripolis but still progressed.
Inter coach Roberto Mancini celebrated his 50th birthday by seeing his team beat Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 2-1 and secure first place in Group F. Dani Osvaldo scored the winner in the 50th minute, soon after Andrea Ranocchia was sent off for Inter for a second yellow card.
Napoli’s 0-0 draw at Sparta Prague ensured the Rafa Benitez’s team cannot be denied a top-two finish in Group I. Fiorentina is the other Italian team guaranteed to be in the knockout stage after qualifying following the fourth round of matches.
Everton will finish first in Group H after beating Wolfsburg 2-0 away through goals by Belgium internationals Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas.
Ukrainian side Dynamo Kiev beat Rio Ave 2-0 to ensure progress from Group J, Feyenoord won by the same score at home to defending champion Sevilla and will advance from Group G, while Trabzonspor won to qualify from Group L.
Celtic joined Salzburg in qualifying from Group D despite losing 3-1 at home to the Austrian team.