Sat, Nov 04, 2006 - Page 18 News List

British quartet register wins in UEFA action

SITTING PRETTY Rangers, Newcastle, Blackburn and Spurs top their respective groups with maximum points after earning wins in UEFA Cup action Thursday


Rangers, Tottenham, Blackburn and Newcastle kept the Union Jack flying in the UEFA Cup on Thursday with the British quartet all registering wins to move closer to the knockout stages.

Newcastle faced arguably the trickiest assignment down in Sicily against joint Serie A leaders Palermo but the Magpies came away with a 1-0 win after Spanish striker Albert Luque scored eight minutes before half time.

Palermo laid siege to Newcastle's goal in the second half, and the visitors were indebted to their 18-year-old Dutch keeper Tim Krul for a string of outstanding saves.

"What an atmosphere, it was unbelievable, and a I got a clean sheet as well," said Krul, called up for his debut as a stand-in for the injured Steve Harper.

Over at White Hart Lane Tottenham looked to be in for an awkward night as FC Bruges made the better start.

The Belgian visitors were in front before the quarter of an hour mark after a goal of exceptional quality from Ghanian Salou Ibrahim.

But Dimitar Berbatov, on the mark against Besiktas last month, volleyed in minutes later.

Heart of the action

The Bulgarian forward was at the heart of Tottenham's second when he found Robbie Keane with the Republic of Ireland international sending a classy finish past Stijn Stijnen. Berbatov's emphatic header sealing victory 10 minutes later.

"We needed a lot of chances to score," coach Martin Jol said. "We showed we can score goals, but we need to be more greedy."

On Berbatov's contribution Jol added: "I'm happy he showed everybody he is a skilful player. If he gets the service he's a good center-forward. It's not easy for a foreign player to adapt to the English game. They need three, four, five months, but maybe he can do it earlier. I hope so."

A breathtaking 75th minute goal from Turkish international Tugay helped Blackburn to a 3-0 rout of outfit FC Basel at Ewood Park.

The Swiss visitors looked set to leave with a hard-earned point before Tugay beat keeper Franco Costanzo from 25-yards.

Former Arsenal striker Francis Jeffers made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the final minute after Reto Zanni had fouled Morten Gamst Pedersen before Benni McCarthy, the victim of racism in Blackburn's opening win over Polish side Wisla Krakow, scored with virtually the last kick.

Rovers manager Mark Hughes heaped praise on 36-year-old Tugay.

"It was a fantastic strike and he continues to defy his advancing years. It was my birthday the other day so I know how hard it is to stop yourself from feeling old. But he plays with a smile on his face and can still have a great influence."

He also had a word for Jeffers after his first goal since April last year.

"He has had a difficult time the last couple of seasons," said Hughes. "We gave him a chance and he is working very hard to take the opportunity."

Up in Scotland Rangers kept up the winning momentum with a 2-0 win over Maccaibi Haifa.

Goals in either half from Spanish striker Nacho Novo and Charlie Adam put paid to the Israeli outfit to help lift spirits at Ibrox after Rangers' stuttering domestic campaign which has left them well adrift of Celtic in the Scottish Premier League.

`Almost Qualified'

"We've almost qualified, that's good news," said Rangers coach Paul Le Guen who had to make an earlier than anticipated substitution by replacing keeper Lionel Letizi who suffered an injury in warm-up with Allan McGregor. "This is confirmation that we can do better in the league. We have to, we have to start winning regularly."

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