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Hit-and-miss Torres helps Chelsea into Europa League last eight

updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu March 14, 2013
Torres took center stage late on, scoring the winner before looking to the sky as he fired a late penalty against the crossbar
Torres took center stage late on, scoring the winner before looking to the sky as he fired a late penalty against the crossbar
  • Chelsea overturn first leg deficit to beat Steaua Bucharest and reach last eight
  • Inter Milan perform heroics but still exit against Spurs in thrilling 4-4 aggregate draw
  • Lazio, Benfica, Fenerbahce, Newcastle and two Russian sides also into quarters

(CNN) -- The story was the same that Fernando Torres has been writing ever since he joined Chelsea from Liverpool for the enormous sum of £50 million ($80 million) in January 2011.

Having secured Chelsea's passage to the Europa League quarterfinals by scoring the goal that ultimately knocked out Romania's Steaua Bucharest, Torres then had the chance to embellish a rare display of confidence with a late penalty.

Could this be the moment that the Spaniard, who looked unusually fired up after being denied what he thought was a penalty before then suffering a bloodied nose, finally began to feel settled at Stamford Bridge?

For those who have followed Torres' stop-start Blues career, the scenario was all too familiar as he crashed his 86th minute penalty against the crossbar - before looking to the heavens in despair.

That he was even prepared to take the penalty told its own story for a man who can boast World Cup and European Championship medals is not known for his prowess nor confidence from the spot.

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Indeed, when he stepped up against Sunderland in a 3-1 league win at the Stadium of Light last December, the successful effort was -- remarkably -- the first he had ever scored in the Premier League since arriving in 2007.

With reports surfacing of Torres having turned down the chance to join big-spending Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, this seemed the chance for the striker, who celebrates his 29th birthday next week, to banish his woes and restore that absent friend of his: confidence.

But as the ball cannoned against the woodwork, the former Atletico Madrid star may have felt that there is an invisible barrier blocking his path at Chelsea.

"He was working hard and he took his chance great -- but obviously, it's a pity that the penalty didn't go in for him," said Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech.

Nonetheless, Torres' strike in the 71st minute was enough to see Chelsea through on a tense night -- meaning the Blues stay on course to become the first side to win UEFA's top two club competitions in reverse order in successive seasons.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in the Romanian capital, Rafa Benitez's side leveled matters as Juan Mata squeezed the ball home after 33 minutes -- but Vlad Chiriches' equalizer (and away goal) on the stroke of half time gave the game a very different complexion.

Making a rare start after a season disrupted by knee problems, captain John Terry restored Chelsea's lead before Torres scored only his second goal in 20 games to register a 3-2 aggregate win.

The victory capped a productive night for English clubs as Chelsea, Tottenham and Newcastle managed to partly atone for the failure of their Premier League counterparts in the Champions League -- none of whom made it into the last eight.

Spurs were involved in the day's most dramatic game as they took a 3-0 lead to Inter Milan -- only to find themselves level on aggregate after 90 minutes as the rampant Italians scored through the lively Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and a William Gallas own goal.

But six minutes into extra-time, the previously quiet Emmanuel Adebayor silenced Inter's fans when poking home a vital away goal.

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The Togolese boasted the unusual record of having scored for Spurs against Inter at the same San Siro stadium where he had netted for Arsenal against AC Milan -- a rare feat -- but this was a mere aside when Alvarez made it 4-4 on aggregate with ten minutes to go.

But Tottenham -- who badly missed the suspended Gareth Bale -- held on, to leave coach Andre Villas-Boas with the chance of repeating the 2011 Europa League triumph he achieved with Porto.

"We have learned massively from our last two ties in the competition, against Lyon and Inter," said the visibly-drained 35-year-old after the game.

While Spurs hung on for victory, Newcastle achieved theirs deep in stoppage time as Papiss Demba Cisse headed home -- at home -- against Anzhi Makhachkala for a 1-0 aggregate win.

Russian clubs had a mixed night with Rubin Kazan winning 2-0 at home against Levante, but only after extra-time, while Zenit St Petersburg went out against Basel, beaten 2-1 on aggregate after Roman Shirokov failed to score an 86th-minute penalty that would have taken the game into extra-time.

Elsewhere, Libor Kozak scored a hat-trick as Lazio completed a comfortable 5-1 aggregate win over Stuttgart with a 3-1 win in Rome while Portugal's Benfica, one of the strongest teams left in the Europa League, knocked out Bordeaux 4-2.

Fenerbahce joined Champions League quarterfinalists Galatasaray in extending Istanbul's interest in European competition as they completed a 2-1 aggregate win over Czech side Viktoria Plzen.

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