Lamela shines as Spurs, Reds top Europa groups

Erik Lamela (left) is congratulated by Clinton Njie after completing his hat-trick in Tottenham's 4-1 victory over Monaco in their Europa League Group J game at White Hart Lane on Thursday. All three of his goals came in the first half.
Erik Lamela (left) is congratulated by Clinton Njie after completing his hat-trick in Tottenham's 4-1 victory over Monaco in their Europa League Group J game at White Hart Lane on Thursday. All three of his goals came in the first half.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both advanced to the knockout stages of the Europa League as winners of their groups on Thursday as the likes of Fiorentina, Marseille and Anderlecht also progressed to the last 32.

However, the two English representatives - who will be joined in the draw for the next round by Manchester United after their Champions League exit - concluded their group-stage campaigns in contrasting fashion.

Enjoying an excellent campaign in the Premier League, Tottenham clinched top spot in Group J by outclassing Monaco 4-1 at White Hart Lane.

Erik Lamela, 23, who was once considered a £30 million (S$64 million) flop, was the hero for Spurs.

The Argentine netted a first-half hat-trick to put Mauricio Pochettino's side out of sight before Stephan El Shaarawy got one back for the visitors. Tom Carroll added the fourth goal for Spurs late on.

"It's true that today he's more confident and looks a different player from two years ago," Pochettino said of Lamela. "He deserves the headlines. Always the younger players need time to improve and adapt their game to a new culture and country."

Liverpool advanced as winners of Group B after a 0-0 draw with Sion in the bitter chill of Switzerland.

Juergen Klopp's side had already progressed, so the German handed starts to the likes of Kolo Toure, Divock Origi and young left-back Brad Smith against opponents who required a point to confirm their own qualification for the last 32.

Smith's performance was one of the biggest plus points in a game of few chances.

Liverpool finished top of the group after going unbeaten through their six games, while Sion advanced as well, although even a defeat would have sufficed for them because Rubin Kazan drew 2-2 at Bordeaux in the other match.

"It was difficult; the ground was very difficult to play (on) and for both teams, the first thing to do was show you were prepared for a game like this and that is what my team did," said Liverpool manager Klopp. "I am really satisfied, no one is injured and they were very focused and concentrated on the game."

The biggest shock on Thursday came when four-time European champions Ajax fell at the first hurdle of the continent's second-tier league after their 1-1 draw at home with Molde, coached by former United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, in Group A.

Ajax were pipped to second place by Fenerbahce, who drew 1-1 with Celtic.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'Lamela shines as Spurs, Reds top Europa groups'. Print Edition | Subscribe