Record-breaking Sevilla, Everton, on top, Inter struggle
Holders Sevilla, with a record-breaking 13 second goal, Everton, and Wolfsburg were all on top after Thursday`s Europa League last 16 first round ties.
Sevilla ran off with their all-Spanish clash at Villarreal 3-1, Victor Machin `Vitolo creating competition history with his grease-lightning opener.
At Everton`s Goodison Park, Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku gave his Premier League club a slender advantage against Dynamo Kiev, his late penalty securing a 2-1 win.
Roberto Martinez`s team fell behind in the 14th minute to an Oleg Gusev strike, but they equalised six minutes before half time when Lukaku`s power and poise helped him lay on a goal for Scottish forward Steven Naismith.
The Toffees, who once again gave a better showing in Europe than they have managed for most of a disappointing domestic campaign, pushed hard for a second half winner and finally broke down the Dynamo defence in the 82nd minute.
Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo awarded a spot-kick for handball by Danilo Silva and Lukaku converted, making him Everton`s all-time record European scorer with seven goals.
Martinez`s men will head to the Ukraine for next week`s second leg in Kiev knowing they are still in with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals as the only remaining British side in the competition.
“We learned that when we have got that tempo in our play and when we use the character we have we are a very strong team,” Martinez said.
“Overall it was a very good performance and the reaction shows we are a very good team. We are not favourites as the home team always has a little advantage.
“Now we are looking forward to the second leg as we travel well in Europe.”
In Naples, Gonzalo Higuain`s hat-trick inspired Rafael Benitez`s Napoli to a 3-1 win over Dinamo Moscow.
“It was a difficult game, especially after their goal. Thankfully we won and we`ll head to Russia with a fairly good advantage. We`ll suffer in the second leg, but Napoli can qualify,” Higuain told Mediaset.
The all Serie A affair between Fiorentina and Roma ended 1-1.
Two other Italian clubs suffered travel sickness, three-time champions Inter Milan coming away from their visit to Vfl Wolfsburg 3-1 losers, and Torino going down 2-0 at Zenit St Petersburg.
Kevin de Bruyne lifted Wolfsburg past Inter despite Roberto Mancini`s men looking to have the upper hand over their high-flying Bundesliga hosts when Rodrigo Palacio put the Serie A visitors into a sixth minute lead.
But de Bruyne set up Naldo for the German side`s first-half equaliser, then with a little help from Inter`s stand-in goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo he scored a second-half double.
Wolves will now fancy their prospects of securing a ticket to the last eight at the San Siro next week.
“Disappointing” was how Inter skipper Andrea Ranocchia summed up the outcome, before suggesting all was by no means lost.
“We started well but our focus is already on the return leg,” he reflected.
“We scored a goal here and want to make sure it counts at the San Siro. We`re making too many stupid mistakes, but we`ve still got 90 minutes to qualify. We`re confident.”
Andre Villas-Boas` Zenit St Petersburg also have an option on the next round after Axel Witsel and former Italian defender Domenco Criscito saw off Torino who were reduced to 10 men after Marco Benassi`s first-half red card.
“It`s a pity, while we were on level terms we had a firm grip on the game,” stated Torino captain Kamil Glik.
“But the red card for Benassi ruined our plans. But it will be a different story in the second leg in our stadium. We still believe.”
Dutch champions Ajax go into their second leg against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk trailing 1-0 after the Ukrainians took the first-leg honours thanks to a first-half goal from Roman Zozulya in Kiev.
In Belgium, Club Brugge edged Besiktas of Turkey 2-1.