Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 18 News List

Spaniards seal three UEFA semi spots

THREE'S NO CROWD Champions Sevilla beat Spurs to join Osasuna and Espanyol in the UEFA Cup semi-finals, with Germany's Werder Bremen making up the quartet

AFP , PARIS

Werder Bremen's Diego reacts after scoring in their UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg match against AZ Alkmaar of the Netherlands in Bremen, Germany, on Thursday.

PHOTO: AP

Spanish clubs repeated the feat of English clubs in the Champions League earlier this week by booking three of the final four berths in the UEFA Cup on Thursday.

Holders Sevilla led the way as they held Spurs 2-2 to progress 4-3 on aggregate and edge nearer to becoming only the second side to retain the trophy -- the other being Real Madrid.

Barcelona's lesser known club, Espanyol, also went through with a tremendous 0-0 draw away at Benfica -- winning 3-2 on aggregate -- while Osasuna beat Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 at home to wrap up a surprising but comfortable 4-0 aggregate win.

However Leverkusen's German rivals Werder Bremen ensured there was some non-Spanish representation as they cruised to an impressive 4-1 win over Dutch side AZ Alkmaar with German international striker Miroslav Klose ending his goal drought of 1,158 minutes, finishing with a double.

Sevilla got a dream start with two goals in the first 10 minutes -- including one from former Spurs marksman Fredi Kanoute -- and even though Spurs hit back with two in the second-half the English side had left themselves with too much to do.

However Sevilla's enterprising coach Juande Ramos -- who has been touted as a potential replacement for Jose Mourinho should he leave Chelsea in the summer -- admitted there had been slight moment of uneasiness.

"It was very clear we made things a bit difficult for ourselves after the second goal but we were never in any real danger of losing the match," said Ramos. "The first minutes of the match are always very important and I think my team showed Tottenham we had clear intentions to score and play a good match."

Spurs manager Martin Jol admitted they had shot themselves in the foot as he saw his side crash out of a cup competition for the third time this season when they were within sight of the final.

"I don't know if the best team won but of course Sevilla is a good team but it is easier when you don't give away goals and they certainly rocked us," said the Dutchman.

"However if you consider the penalty awarded against us last week we were unlucky but we could have done better today," Jol said. "In the second-half we won against a team that had rocked us early on and beat them 2-0."

However Jol insisted his team has improved this season despite becoming the nearly men of cup competitions and failing to mount a challenge for the Premiership title.

"I felt we achieved a lot this year," said the former no-nonsense Dutch international midfielder.

Osasuna may be 14th in the Spanish championship but they made light of that to grind out a 1-0 win over Leverkusen with Juanlu Gomez wrapping up affairs in the 62nd minute and landing his side their first ever semi-final spot in the competition.

Espanyol are five places above Osasuna but were fortunate to withstand a second-half onslaught by Benfica, who had looked to be in the box seat after coming back from 3-0 down last week in Spain to lose 3-2.

However, Nuno Gomez was defied by a brilliant save from Gorka Iraizoz and then two of his team-mates including veteran Rui Costa saw their efforts hit the woodwork to keep alive Espanyol's dreams of reaching their second ever UEFA Cup final, having lost in the 1988 final.

Benfica coach Fernando Santos could only shrug his shoulders in despair.

"We dominated the match totally from the 10th minute but what can one do. We will just have to focus on the title," he said.

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