Tottenham Hotspurs’ Jermain Defoe, center, celebrates his goal with Roman Pavlyuchenko, left, and Giovani Dos Santos during their Europa League Group A soccer match against Shamrock Rovers on Thursday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)
(PhatzRadio / CBC Sports) — Tottenham rallied to beat Shamrock Rovers 3-1 while Schalke provided coach Huub Stevens with a winning debut and Athletic Bilbao shook off its domestic struggles to beat Paris St. Germain 2-0 in the Europa League on Thursday.
Bilbao, which remains without a win in Spain, earned its second straight victory in the competition alongside Anderlecht, FC Brugges, PSV Eindhoven and Sporting Lisbon.
In north London, Stephen Rice redirected Pat Sullivan’s shot into goal to give Shamrock a surprise 50th-minute lead that jolted Tottenham to life as Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermaine Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos all netted within a five-minute span to put the hosts comfortably in front by the 65th minute.
“No disrespect to Shamrock Rovers but we could have been three goals up at halftime,” Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp said.
Tottenham and Rubin Kazan, which drew 2-2 against PAOK Thessaloniki, lead Group A with four points. Shamrock, which was playing a competitive match in England for the first time in over 50 years, is last after two straight losses.
In Gelsenkirchen, Christian Fuchs scored either side of the break, with his second goal putting Schalke ahead for good after Idan Vered had equalized in the 35th.
Jose Manuel Jurado added the third goal in the 82nd as Stevens made a winning return to the club which he led to the UEFA Cup trophy in 1997.
“The team needed a win like this in front of our fans,” said teenage midfielder Iker Munian, who again excelled for the Basque club in Europe.
In Lisbon, Lazio striker Miraslov Klose cancelled out Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s 21st-minute opener before Emiliano Insua unleashed a shot from 35 metres (yards) for the winner just before the break for Sporting. Sporting played with 10 men after Insua was sent off in the 50th minute.
While Sporting is top of Group D, Eindhoven beat Rapid Bucharest 3-1 in Group C and Anderlecht won 2-0 at Lokomotiv Moscow to top Group L.
Tottenham wasn’t the only victorious English club on the night as Andy Johnson’s two goals led Fulham to a 2-0 victory at Odense and Stoke rallied to beat Besiktas 2-1 thanks to Jon Walters’ late penalty set up by Peter Crouch, who cancelled out Roberto Hilbert’s 14th-minute goal with a header one minute later.
Birmingham rallied for a 2-1 win at Maribor of Slovenia in Group H, which is led by Brugges after Ryan Donk headed home an injury-time winner in a 2-1 victory at last season’s finalist Braga.
Atletico Madrid stayed top of Group I after Juanfran Torres’ late goal earned the 2010 champion a 1-1 draw at Rennes. Udinese also has four points after Almen Abdi scored a late penalty for the Italians in a 1-1 draw at Celtic.
“It was a disgraceful decision,” said Celtic manager Neil Lennon, whose team took the lead through Ki Sung-yueng’s third-minute penalty. “Ours was definitely a penalty but the referee deliberated for 20 seconds before giving it. I can’t understand that.”
Shamrock, Vorskla Poltava, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bratislava, Malmo, Maribor, Wisla Krakow and AEK Athens have all lost their first two games to start.