Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea coast into Europa League group stage draw
It was never in any doubt, but Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City will join Wigan Athletic in today's draw for the Europa League group stage.
Both Premier League teams went into tonight's play-off round second leg in strong positions, Spurs against Dynamo Tbilisi and Swansea against Petrolul Ploiesti. But Spurs won 3-0, to win 8-0 on aggregate, and Swansea survived a 2-1 loss in Romania to progress 6-3.
Spurs' game was a rather gentle encounter, in front of only 26,189 people, more of a warm-up exercise for Sunday's north London derby than anything else. It was a chance for Andre Villas-Boas to start Sandro and Younes Kaboul, both on their way back from long-term injuries, as well as those who have not been heavily involved so far this season, such as Jermain Defoe, Brad Friedel, Lewis Holtby and Tom Carroll.
Defoe, as ever, showed his effectiveness in front of goal, scoring twice just before half-time. His first was a left-footed shot after he ran on to Holtby's clever reverse pass. His second, in first-half added time, was a tap-in after Gylfi Sigurdsson had crossed low from Kyle Walker's smart work down the right.
Holtby, who was influential and impressive throughout, scored his first goal for Spurs halfway through the second half. Waiting 20 yards from goal, he received a short pass from Carroll, let the ball roll across his body and then struck it perfectly with his right foot into the near top corner, off the underside of the bar.
Michael Laudrup's side played earlier in the evening, in a fairly comfortable position having won the first leg at the Liberty Stadium 5-1. This allowed Laudrup to make five changes from the team that lost 1-0 at White Hart Lane on Sunday: Gerhard Tremmel, Jordi Amat, Leon Britton, Alejandro Pozuelo and Rory Donnelly all coming into the side.
After a fairly comfortable game, Swansea allowed the well-supported Romanian side to take the lead through Njongo Priso with 17 minutes remaining. The lead did not last for long, and one minute later Roland Lamah, the Belgian striker on loan at Swansea from Osasuna, equalised on the night with a close-range, left-footed volley from Pozuelo's looping cross from the right wing.
Hamza Younes nodded Petrolul back ahead with seven minutes left but Swansea were through, even after captain Leon Britton's late red card for a second booking.
Swansea and Spurs therefore go into the group stage, along with Wigan Athletic, who qualified automatically having won the FA Cup. They will be drawn into groups of four but without some of the higher-profile sides many expected to quality: St Etienne, Udinese and Stuttgart were all knocked out tonight, by Esbjerg, Slovan Liberec and Rijeka respectively.
In the second leg between AZ Alkmaar and Atromitos, the game was suspended owing to a fire in the stands. The last 30 minutes will be played this morning before the draw, for which Spurs will be seeded in the top pot.
Europa League: Group stage teams
Freiburg, Lazio, Vitoria de Guimaraes, Bordeaux, Anzhi Makhachkala, Dynamo Zagreb, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad, PAOK, Pacos de Ferreria, Lyons, Maribor, Shakter Karagandy, PSV Eindhoven, St Gallen, Rubin Kazan, Valencia, Swansea, Tottenham, Wigan, Dynamo Kiev, Maccabi Haifa, IF Elfsborg, Rijeka, Rapid Vienna, Trabzonspor, AZ Alkmaar/Atromitos, Liberec, Esbjerg, Zulte-Waregem, FC Sheriff, Besiktas, Genk, Apollon Limassol, FC Thun, Red Bull Salzburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Estoril, Standard Liège, Braga/Pandurii Targu-Jiu, Real Betis, Dnipro, Seville, Fiorentina, Kuban Krasnodor, Chornomorets
Belfast Telegraph Digital