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Spurs and Everton leave UEFA Cup hopes on knife-edge

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 19 Sep 2008

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Tottenham and Everton, once proud members of the English Premiership's original big five before turning into serial under-achievers, were struggling to salvage their UEFA Cup dreams on Thursday.

Tottenham, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, beat Poland's Wisla Krakow 2-1 at White Hart Lane while Everton twice came from behind to secure a 2-2 home draw with Belgian side Standard Liege in their first round, first leg ties.

Elsewhere, Manchester City and Aston Villa needed to battle back to clinch crucial away victories in Cyprus and Bulgaria respectively while FA Cup winners Portsmouth marked their first European tie with a 2-0 home success over Guimaraes of Portugal.

Darren Bent grabbed the winner for Spurs in the 73rd minute to hand coach Juande Ramos his first win of the season.

David Bentley had given the Londoners the lead in the first half but Tomas Jirsak levelled within a minute to give the Poles a vital away goal.

“It will be a tough game in Poland and we have to make sure we do not lose there,” said Spurs assistant manager Gus Poyet.

“It will be a totally different game. We are not in a good position so we need to win.”

At Goodison Park, Liege, who lost narrowly to Liverpool in a Champions League qualifier in August, were in front against Everton after just nine minutes through Dieumerci Mbokani.

Yakubu equalised before Joseph Yobo's own goal put the Belgians ahead again. Ecuador's Segundo Castillo, making his home debut, levelled for Everton with a long-range drive seven minutes before the interval.

“Hopefully we will play better and defend better (in Belgium),” said Everton manager David Moyes.

“Let's hope we can go there and keep a clean sheet and score.”

Manchester City, now bankrolled by the petro-billions of a Middle East sheikh, fell behind to a 49th-minute goal from Klodian Duro at Cypriot minnows Omonia Nicosia.

But they were rescued by Brazilian striker Jo who grabbed his first goals since his move from CSKA Moscow in the summer.

Jo overshadowed his illustrious compatriot Robinho with crucial strikes in the 59th and 72nd minutes to secure a 2-1 win.

“They were two good finishes and he will settle down now,” said City boss Mark Hughes.

“When a new player comes to a club it is important to get off the mark and make an impression and he did that.”

England international Gareth Barry scored on his 400th club appearance as Aston Villa came from behind to defeat Litex Lovech 3-1 before the Bulgarians went on to finish the tie with nine men.

Ivelin Popov gave the home side a 10th-minute lead from a free-kick before Nigel Reo-Coker levelled for Martin O'Neill's team.

Barry converted a 72nd-minute penalty to edge Villa in front before Stiliyan Petrov added a 90th-minute third goal to give the English side a vital two-goal cushion.

At Fratton Park, Lassana Diarra opened the scoring after 39 minutes with Jermain Defoe adding the second for Portsmouth on the hour mark.

In between, Defoe also missed a penalty while Guimaraes also fluffed a spotkick when Fajardo hit the crossbar.

Struggling AC Milan, the seven-time European champions, earned their first victory of the season in a 3-1 success over FC Zurich at the San Siro.

Goals from Marek Jankulovski, Pato and Marco Borriello gave Milan a three-goal start before Dusan Djuric pulled one back for the visitors.

Australian international Harry Kewell and fellow former Liverpool teammate Milan Baros (2) were on target as Turkey's Galatasaray won a 4-3 thriller at Swiss side Bellinzona.

Ex-England manager Steve McClaren saw his Dutch side Twente lose 2-1 at French hosts Rennes while former European champions Benfica went down 3-2 at Napoli.

Sevilla, champions in 2006 and 2007, saw off Salzburg 2-0 while Scotland's only representatives Motherwell lost 1-0 at AS Nancy.

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