Tottenham secured its first win of the season in the first leg of the opening round.
AC Milan, Tottenham open UEFA Cup bids with wins
LONDON // Seven-time European champion AC Milan began a rare foray into the UEFA Cup confidently yesterday, and Tottenham secured its first win of the season in the first leg of the opening round. Both teams have endured torrid starts to their league campaigns, but Milan beat FC Zurich 3-1 and Spurs secured a slender 2-1 advantage over Wisla Krakow. Violence-plagued Napoli got a 3-2 victory over Benfica despite a bottle thrown onto the pitch in southern Italy, while Udinese won 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund. It was an easier night for Italian rival Sampdoria, which routed FBK Kaunas 5-0. English clubs Manchester City and Aston Villa both came from behind to beat inferior opposition, while Everton was held to a draw at home.
English clubs Manchester City and Aston Villa both came from behind to beat inferior opposition, while Everton was held to a draw at home. A fifth-place Serie A finish last season denied Milan its accustomed Champions League spot and the pressure hadn't eased on coach Carlo Ancelotti after losing the opening two matches of the new campaign. But left back Marek Jankulovsi put Milan ahead by volleying in a rebound in first-half added time, Brazil forward Alexandre Pato found the target with a free kick in the 56th and second-half substitute Marco Borriello connected from beyond the area in the 74th.
Dusan Djuric pulled one back for Zurich with a long, rising shot that ricocheted in off the crossbar in the 78th. After the game, tempers flared between police and the nearly 2,000 Zurich fans in attendance. Objects were thrown at the police but order was restored as the visiting fans were escorted out of the stadium. Juande Ramos was also desperate for a victory after Tottenham's worst start to a domestic campaign in 34 years, but dire defending nearly gave Krakow a valuable away draw to take back to Poland for the second leg in two weeks. David Bentley had scored for Spurs in the 33rd only to see it cancelled out within a minute when the visitors ripped through the defensive line for Tomas Jirsak's equaliser.
But Darren Bent clinched Tottenham's first victory of the season with a 73rd-minute header. Udinese used perfect counterattacks to beat Dortmund, taking the lead after eight minutes through Antonio Floro Flores while the home team's Mohamed Zidan was being treated on the sidelines. Udinese doubled its advantage in the 34th when Simone Pepe provided the pass for Gokhan Inker in another fast move and the latter scored easily.
Napoli beat a quality opponent for the second time in four days, edging Benfica 3-2 Thursday in the first leg of the UEFA Cup's opening round. The biggest club in south Italy got three successive goals from Luigi Vitale, German Denis and Christian Maggio in the 18th, 20th and 55th minutes, while David Suazo and Luisao tallied in the 16th and 60th for Benfica, a two-time European champion. Some 60,000 fans attended the game at the San Paolo stadium, excited by the chance to see their team after violence-imposed bans have limited the number of supporters allowed into Serie A games.
The areas behind the goals where Napoli's "ultra" - or hard-core - fans sit has been closed for league games until next month after supporters of the club rioted on a train to Rome for the opening game of the season. No limits were imposed for the UEFA Cup match. Still, a Napoli fan was taken away by police after throwing a bottle onto the field during play after other fans identified him, the ANSA news agency reported.
Manchester City rallied for a 2-1 win at Omonia Nicosia after Brazil striker Jo scored his first goals since his US$37.9 million move from CSKA Moscow in the off-season. City fell behind four minutes after halftime when Albania midfielder Klodian Duro's free kick sailed past Joe Hart, but Jo levelled in the 59th minute and secured the win in the 72nd. Aston Villa won 3-1 at NK Varteks despite a disastrous start. Ivelin Popov put the Croats ahead in the 10th, but a goalkeeping error and two red cards handed the initiative to the visitors. Nigel Reo-Coker levelled on the stroke of halftime, before Cedric Cambo was dismissed on the hour and Mihail Venkov was sent off after handling on the line in the 71st. Villa captain Gareth Barry converted the resulting penalty and Stiliyan Petrov clinched a 3-1 victory in stoppage time.
Portsmouth began its first ever European campaign with a 2-0 victory over Vitoria Guimaraes thanks to goals from Lassana Diarra and Jermain Defoe, while Belgian champion Standard Liege twice lost its lead as it was held 2-2 at Everton. Fernando Morientes gave Spanish Copa Del Rey winner Valencia a 1-0 victory at Madeiran side Maritimo. In Serbia, Ajax cruised to a 4-1 victory at Borac. In Israel, goals from Dmitri Payet and Pascal Feindouno gave Saint Etienne a 2-1 win over Hapoel Tel Aviv.
FC Copenhagen beat FC Moscow 2-1 away after a winner substitute Libor Sionko late in injury time, while Feyenoord lost 1-0 at home against Swedish club Kalmar behind a goal by Viktor Elm. UEFA Cup first round, first leg results on Thursday: At Sofia Cherno More 1 VfB Stuttgart 2 At Moscow FC Moscow 1 FC Copenhagen 2 At Lovech, Bulgaria Litex Lovech 1 Aston Villa 3 At Ostrava Banik Ostrava 0 Spartak Moscow 1 At Tel Aviv Hapoel Tel-Aviv 1 St Etienne 2 At Koprivnica, Croatia NK Slaven Koprivnica 1 CSKA Moscow 2 At Nancy, France AS Nancy 1 Motherwell 0 At Portsmouth Portsmouth 2 Guimaraes 0 At Nicosia Omonia Nicosia 1 Portsmouth 2 At Wolfsburg, Germany VfL Wolfsburg 1 Rapid Bucharest 0 At Hamburg, Germany Hamburg SV 0 Unirea Urziceni 0 At Rotterdam, The Netherlands Feyenoord 0 Kalmar 1 At Bergen, Norway Brann Bergen 2 Deportivo La Coruna 0 At Prague Slavia Prague 0 Vaslui 0 At Vienna Austria Vienna 2 Lech Poznan 1 At Zilina, Slovakia Zilina 1 Levski Sofia 1 At Timisoara, Romania FC Timisoara 1 Partizan Belgrade 2 At Istanbul Besiktas 1 FC Metalist Kharkiv 0 At Nijmegen, The Netherlands NEC Nijmegen 1 Dynamo Bucharest 0 At Basel, Switzerland Bellinzona 3 Galatasaray 4 At Bern Young Boys 2 FC Bruges 2 At Kayseri, Turkey Kayserispor 1 Paris Saint Germain 2 At Santander, Spain Real Santander 1 Honka Espoo 0 At Genoa, Italy Sampdoria 5 FBK Kaunas 0 At Brondby, Denmark Brondby 1 Rosenborg 2 At Milan AC Milan 3 FC Zurich 1 At Zagreb Dynamo Zagreb 0 Sparta Prague 0 At Seville, Spain Sevilla 2 Salzburg 0 At Dortmund, Germany Borussia Dortmund 0 Udinese 2 At Rennes, France Rennes 2 FC Twente 1 At Belgrade FK Borac 1 Ajax 4 At Naples, Italy Napoli 3 Benfica 2 At Liverpool, England Everton 2 Standard Liege 2 At London Tottenham 2 Wisla Krakov 1 * AP