Spurs and Everton through to Europa League last 32
Mauricio Pochettino can heave a sigh of relief. His new club Spurs negotiated safe passage through to the knockout phase of the Europa League, and are still joint 12/1 favourites with holders Sevilla to win the competition.
New summer signing Benjamin Stambouli secured the three points they needed to guarantee qualification, by scoring his first goal for the north London club. He was in the right place at the right time four minutes after the restart to follow in a Roberto Soldado shot that hit the post.
The home side were always threatening, and under their new Argentine coach, are starting to look like a slick outfit. Pochettino’s only grievance will have been that yet again Soldado, for all his industry, failed to score. There is, however, still hope for him it seems; he’s willing to work.
Despite the narrow victory margin, Spurs always looked comfortable, and Erik Lamela time and again teased the Partizan resistance.
Club top scorer this season, Harry Kane, with 11 goals, went close when brought on for Soldado though opposition keeper Milan Lukac pushed away a testing free kick.
Following the game, Pochettino was understandably pleased to have progressed unscathed: “Job done. I am pleased for our supporters and the players. We played better than them and deserved the win.
“It’s always good when a player scores and especially for Stambouli. I’m happy for him,” Pochettino continued. “We can now focus on the Premier League. It is important to get the victory and I am happy for our supporters and the players.”
Meanwhile, Everton eased through to the next round, topping Group H on an unassailable 11 points. There is still a game to spare, though the Toffees will hope they can take three points off Krasnodar at Goodison Park, after they were held to a draw in Russia.
Belgian pair Romelu Lukaku and the returning Kevin Mirallas were on target in the 2-0 win over Wolfsburg, and Roberto Martinez was impressed with his team, who are 16/1 shots to win this continental competition.
“On the transition we were lethal and every time we broke we looked really threatening,” said Martinez.
“The two centre-halves (Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin) and (goalkeeper) Tim Howard were outstanding, and I think the shape of the team helped those three to be at their best,” he continued.
“We have been getting on with our season on the quiet and I think Romelu Lukaku has been exactly the same. We are building something special going into the second half of the season. That is our objective.”