6 Things We Learned from Europa League Last 32 Second Legs

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistFebruary 27, 2014

6 Things We Learned from Europa League Last 32 Second Legs

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    Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    The Europa League field has been halved, with 32 teams becoming 16 following a dramatic Thursday of action across the continent.

    The tournament may continue to have its detractors, but the amount of goals and quality displays we saw in the second legs of the last 32 at least showcased that there is still a place for the Champions League's little brother in the football calendar.

    Plenty of high-profile sides are still in the hat and will face off in what look to be some interesting last-16 ties, but what did we learn from this round?

    Here are six lessons from a compelling evening:

This Tournament Matters to Tottenham

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    As they chase a top-four place in the Premier League, there were calls for Tottenham to simply bow out of the Europa League in order to focus on what many see as their primary goal.

    When Dnipro's Roman Zozulya headed home to put the Ukrainian side 2-0 up on aggregate at White Hart Lane early in the second half, those calls became louder, but the response from an energised Spurs side was fantastic to see.

    Christian Eriksen's free-kick gave them hope, and then aided by Zozulya's brainless headbutt and subsequent red card, the close-range brace from Emmanuel Adebayor turned the tables and sent Tim Sherwood's men through to a tie against Benfica.

    Success can breed success, and Spurs going all out to win the Europa League shouldn't detract from their Premier League hopes.

    Luckily their players seem to agree.

Lazio's Poor Season Has Got Worse

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    The 1-0 loss to Bulgaria's Ludogorets in the first leg could have been overcome, and it very nearly was, but ultimately Lazio's poor season took a turn for the worse as they bowed out in dramatic style.

    Keita Balde's second-fastest goal in Europa League history, timed at 16.88 seconds immediately cancelled out the away strike that the Bulgarians earned in Rome, and with the tie level what followed was an enthralling 90 minutes.

    Lazio were going through when Miroslav Klose put them 3-2 ahead on the night and in front on away goals just eight minutes from time, only for Juninho Quixada to strike in the 88th minute and put his side 4-3 up on aggregate.

    It was a glorious moment for the Bulgarian champions, who will fancy their chances against Valencia in the next round.

The All-Italian Last-16 Tie Should Be a Cracker

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    Both teams breezed through as expected, and now the all-Italian last-16 clash between Juventus and Fiorentina certainly whets the appetite.

    Juve repeated the first leg score as they won 2-0 in Turkey against Trabzonspor, whilst Fiorentina played out a low-key clash at home to Esbjerg after winning the first leg 3-1.

    It ended 1-1 at the Artemio Franchi after a late equaliser from the Danish side restored some pride.

    There will be a lot more than that on the line when the two Serie A sides meet in March, with plenty hoping for a repeat of the remarkable league contest we saw earlier this season, when Fiorentina came from 2-0 down to beat the "Old Lady" 4-2.

Swansea Can Hold Their Heads High

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    Swansea's European adventure is over following the bravest of defeats to Serie A giants Napoli, but Garry Monk and his men can be proud after what was a sterling effort.

    Perhaps they'll look back with disappointment at failing to score in a goalless first leg in which they more than held their own, but Jonathan De Guzman's away goal looked like it was to send them through an the San Paolo until the last 12 minutes of the tie.

    Gonzalo Higuain and Gokhan Inler's goals changed all that, but much like Tottenham can use the prospect of European glory to spur them on in the Premier League, Swansea can view nights like this as an incentive to stay up and keep up with the big boys.

Red Bull Salzburg Are Still No Respecters of Reputations

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    History and traditions are all well and good, but if you haven't got the current team to back it up, then they don't really count for much.

    That was exactly what people were thinking when Red Bull Salzburg hammered Ajax 3-0 in Amsterdam last week, and there was to be no fairytale comeback for the Dutch giants in the second leg in Austria, where they at least got on the scoresheet only to lose 3-1.

    You could view this victory as one in the eye for the football traditionalists against a club which has certainly been helped out by the modern game's fondness for money, but this defeat should signal a wake-up call for the Amsterdammers and an understanding of where the modern game is heading without them.

    As plenty of clubs have found out in the past, you can't trade on your history forever.

There Is Life in Anzhi Makhachkala Yet

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    Yves Logghe/Associated Press

    Rock-bottom of the Russian Premier League with zero wins from 19 matches, and no longer able to boast the riches which brought the likes of Samuel Eto'o, Roberto Carlos and Guus Hiddink to the club, Anzhi Makhachkala have managed to find some solace in the Europa League.

    The team from Daegestan will now face AZ Alkmaar in the last 16 after a somewhat surprising 2-0 win over Genk in Belgium, where Oleksandr Aliyev both forced an own goal and got himself on the scoresheet on an evening when his team saw just 30 percent of the ball, according to UEFA.

    It was an evening to forget for new Genk coach Emilio Ferrera, but after all of their troubles, it was at least a heartwarming night for an Anzhi side who are now devoid of star names.