Chelsea wins, Liverpool loses in Europa League

LONDON (AP) - After the ignominy of a premature demise from the Champions League as defending champion, Chelsea's quest to win the Europa League began by gaining a slender advantage at Sparta Prague on Thursday.

On another miserable night for striker Fernando Torres it required substitute Oscar to clinch a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the last-32 match.

But there was only gloom for another former winner of Europe's most illustrious club competition.

Five-time European Cup champion Liverpool lost 2-0 at Zenit St. Petersburg to mirror its struggles in the Premier League in which it sits in ninth place.

In the Czech capital, Chelsea's breakthrough came after manager Rafa Benitez replaced Juan Mata with Oscar.

And the Brazilian's first involvement in the match ended with a goal in the 82nd minute after playing a one-two with Eden Hazard.

In December, Chelsea became the first Champions League winners to exit the competition in the group stage.

There has been little domestic respite for the London club, which is third in the Premier League, out of the League Cup and facing an FA Cup fourth-round replay against third-tier club Brentford on Sunday.

The Europa League is Liverpool's last chance of glory this season and now needs to overturn a 2-0 deficit next Thursday at Anfield.

A virtually full-strength team conceded two goals in two minutes in Moscow.

Hulk netted with a striker from 30 yards in the 70th minute, and Sergei Semak then netted at the far post from Alexander Anyukov's low cross.

"There is no way the tie is over, not by a long shot. We are more than capable of getting the goals back," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "I think the next goal is vitally important for us and what gives us hope is we created enough to win the game. If we get it early it can create the momentum for us."

Bayer Leverkusen conceded at home for the first time in Europe this season, with Oscar Cardozo's second-half strike giving Benfica a 1-0 win in Germany.

Another German side, Hannover, was beaten 3-1 by Anzhi Makhachkala after throwing away the lead.

Samuel Eto'o began the comeback by canceling out Szabolcs Huszti's goal, Odil Ahmedov put Anzhi ahead at the start of the second half and Mbark Boussoufa netted the third.

In Italy, Viktoria Plzen stunned Napoli with a 3-0 victory. Vladimar Darida gave the Czech side the lead at halftime, and Stanislav Tecl and Frantisek Rajtoral gave them a greater advantage in the closing minutes.

Levante beat Olympiakos by the same score to take a giant stride toward the last 16 after having lost five of its past six domestic matches in Spain. Pedro Rios, Jose Barkero and Obafemi Martins scored for Levante.

In Belarus, Fenerbahce held on for a 0-0 draw at BATE Borisov despite playing with 10 men from the third minute after Raul Meireles was sent off for hacking Alexander Helb from behind.

There was also a draw in the Ukrainian capital where Dynamo Kiev was held 1-1 by Bordeaux after Lukman Haruna's opener for the hosts was cancelled out by Ludovic Obraniak. Oleg Gusev sent a penalty for Kiev crashing against the woodwork.

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