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Benfica, Valencia big winners in Europa League

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 13, 2014 at 6:21 pm •  Published: March 13, 2014

Benfica and Valencia secured convincing away wins to take a giant step toward the Europa League quarterfinals on Thursday while Real Betis surprisingly beat Sevilla 2-0 in a fierce Spanish derby played for the first time on the European stage.

Brazilian defender Luisao scored two second-half goals to help Benfica beat Tottenham 3-1 and cap a good night for Portugal's top clubs in the last-16 first legs, with Porto defeating Napoli 1-0 at home.

Valencia defied the early sending-off of Seydou Keita to beat Ludogorets Razgrad 3-0 away and Lyon was the night's other big winner, coming from behind to thrash Viktoria Plzen 4-1.

Germany striker Mario Gomez grabbed a late equalizer for Fiorentina in a 1-1 draw at Juventus in an all-Italian matchup while AZ Alkmaar beat Anzhi Makhachkala 1-0 and Basel drew 0-0 with Red Bull Salzburg, which failed to win in Europe's second-tier competition for the first time this season.

The second legs will be played next week.

At the end of a week when Arsenal and Manchester City exited the Champions League, English woes in Europe continued as Tottenham was outplayed at White Hart Lane by Benfica, last season's beaten finalist.

Spurs manager Tim Sherwood was seeking a response from his players after attacking their character and desire following Saturday's 4-0 loss to Chelsea in the Premier League but more poor defending cost them dear.

After Rodrigo opened the scoring for Benfica with a low curling shot in the 29th, Luisao doubled the lead in the 58th when he lost his marker at a corner and powered home a header.

Christian Eriksen pulled a goal back for Spurs with a superb free kick but Luisao slammed a close-range finish in off the bar after another set piece with six minutes to go, leaving Benfica in a commanding position.

Sherwood squared up to counterpart Jorge Jesus after the visitors' third goal after the Benfica coach held up three fingers in a goading celebration. They didn't shake hands after the match.

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