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Zenit resist Liverpool's Europa fightback

GENEVA -- Zenit St. Petersburg resisted a Liverpool fightback inspired by Luis Suarez to reach the Europa League last 16 on the away-goals rule after a 3-3 aggregate score on Thursday.

Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Zenit was cruising when Hulk scored in the 19th minute goal, but Suarez struck twice with stunning free kicks either side of Joe Allen's close-range finish as Liverpool threatened an unlikely victory.

On a tense night for English clubs, Chelsea was spared extra time against Sparta Prague when Eden Hazard's late goal earned a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, and a 2-1 aggregate win.

Tottenham got a superb 90th-minute goal from Mousa Dembele to salvage a 1-1 draw in Lyon and advance 3-2 on aggregate.

Inter Milan eased past Cluj, 3-0 in Romania and 5-0 on aggregate, and defending champion Atletico Madrid was eliminated by Rubin Kazan despite winning in Moscow.

Zenit and Rubin were joined by Anzhi Makhachkala as Russia mounts a strong challenge in a last-16 lineup featuring teams from 11 different countries. Anzhi drew 1-1 at Hannover, and advanced 4-2 on aggregate.

Also advancing were Basel, Benfica, Bordeaux, Fenerbahce, Lazio, Levante, Newcastle, Stuttgart and Viktoria Plzen. The Czech Republic side's 2-0 win at home to Napoli completed a 5-0 aggregate score against the second-placed team in Serie A.

In the only match not settled in regulation time, Steaua Bucharest beat Ajax 4-2 in a penalty shootout in Romania after the teams traded 2-0 home wins.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he was “bitterly disappointed” not to get a decisive fourth goal in a pulsating final half hour at Anfield.

“We were incredible tonight,” Rodgers said. “At 3-0 you might have thought the tie was over and done with. I think the team showed their real character and quality.”

Suarez first fired a 27th-minute free kick through the Zenit defensive wall, and Allen lifted Liverpool by pouncing on a rebound from his own saved header in the 43rd.

Better was to come in the 59th when Suarez curled a right-foot free kick from 30 meters (yards) just inside the right post.

Liverpool pounded the Zenit defense without finding a winning goal, and Hulk was denied a clincher by Pepe Reina's diving stop low to his right in the 73rd.

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 McIlroy, Woods eliminated at Match Play 
Liverpool's Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, right, vies with Zenit St. Petersburg's Slovakian defender Tomas Hubocan, left, during the second leg of the UEFA Europa League round of 32 soccer match between Liverpool and Zenit St. Petersburg in Liverpool, northwest England, Thursday. (AP/AFP)

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