Spurs, Benfica and Valencia relaunch last 16 bids


PARIS: Tottenham Hotspur, Benfica and Valencia relaunched their respective bids for a place in the lucrative last 16 of the Champions League with resounding wins in the fourth round of group games on Tuesday.
Spurs, who staged a remarkable comeback a fortnight ago in a 4-3 defeat away to Inter Milan, outclassed the defending champions 3-1 at White Hart Lane with another fine display of attacking football inspired by Welsh winger Gareth Bale.
Benfica still sit third in Group B but took a big step towards the knockout stage with a 4-3 victory over Lyon. Valencia moved up to second place in Group C after a 3-0 romp over Rangers as the Scottish champions failed to break their unwanted hoodoo of never having won a European fixture in Spain.
Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw by FC Copenhagen, the Danes frustrating the aims of the Spanish league giants who remained top of Group D and on course for the last 16.
After four rounds of group games, no team has yet qualified for the knockout stage of the competition where teams play each other home and away in a bid to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Man United, however, had reason to claim the bragging rights Tuesday as they virtually qualified thanks to a 3-0 rout of Bursaspor. The gulf in class between Sir Alex Ferguson’s side and the Turkish competition debutants was evident in a display which saw goals come from Scottish midfielder Darren Fletcher, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe.
Spurs’ fans meanwhile were treated to one of the most memorable nights in the club’s history as Bale again proved the inspiration. Although Rafael van der Vaart, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko got the goals, it was Bale who took centre-stage with a truly spell-binding display.
An 80th minute goal from Cameroonian superstar Samuel Eto’o had only a faint whiff of a consolation. The Premier League club are now top of Group A – ahead of Inter on goal difference – and look well set to reach the knockout stages.
With Lyon struggling badly in the French first division, coach Claude Puel has hung on to his job thanks only to his team’s displays in Europe. The French champions from 2002-2008 needed only a point to qualify for the next round but fluffed their lines badly with a “naive” approach, according to Puel, which was quickly punished by Portuguese champions Benfica.