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Zenit prevail at sorry Anfield

Zenit St. Petersburg resisted a Liverpool fightback inspired by Luis Suarez to reach the Europa League last 16 on the away-goals rule after a 3-3 aggregate score on Thursday.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Zenit was cruising when Hulk scored in the 19th minute goal, but Suarez struck twice with stunning free kicks either side of Joe Allen’s close-range finish as Liverpool threatened an unlikely victory.

On a tense night for English clubs, Chelsea was spared extra time against Sparta Prague when Eden Hazard’s late goal earned a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and a 2-1 aggregate win.

Tottenham got a superb 90th-minute goal from Mousa Dembele to salvage a 1-1 draw in Lyon and advance 3-2 on aggregate.

Inter Milan eased past Cluj, 3-0 in Romania and 5-0 on aggregate, and defending champion Atletico Madrid was eliminated by Rubin Kazan despite winning in Moscow.  Zenit and Rubin were joined by Anzhi Makhachkala as Russia mounts a strong challenge in a last-16 line-up featuring teams from 11 different countries. Anzhi drew 1-1 at Hannover, and advanced 4-2 on aggregate.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’ not to get a decisive fourth goal in a pulsating final half hour at Anfield.

‘We were incredible tonight,’ Rodgers said. ‘At 3-0 you might have thought the tie was over and done with. I think the team showed their real character and quality.’
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