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Spurs lose but keeps Champions League hopes alive

- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

LONDON (AP) - Tottenham scored two away goals Tuesday to keep alive hopes of reaching the Champions League for the first time despite a 3-2 playoff defeat at Switzerland's Young Boys.

While four-time European champion Ajax should make the group stage after a 1-1 playoff draw at Dynamo Kiev, Spurs' recovery from a 3-0 deficit after 28 minutes makes the English club a narrow favorite to reach European soccer's top club competition for the first time in 48 years.

The winners over two games earn places in the lucrative group stage and the losers drop into the second-tier Europa League.

With away goals counting double if scores are even after next week's second-leg matches, goals by Sebastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko mean Tottenham needs only a single-goal win at White Hart Lane to go through. Ajax could advance with as little as a 0-0 draw.

"We've got to be happy with that after the first half an hour," Tottenham captain Michael Dawson said. "We're still in the competition with a great chance. It could have been disastrous."

Also Tuesday, Zenit St. Petersburg beat Auxerre 1-0, Rosenborg beat FC Copenhagen 2-1 and Slovak champion Zilina won 2-0 at Sparta Prague.

Young Boys was supposedly the easiest opponent Tottenham could have faced in the playoffs, but it dominated the north London team, which made mistakes all over Young Boys' artificial field.

"Everyone struggles coming here," said Young Boys defender Scott Sutter, a Tottenham fan. "It is a very quick surface."

Young Boys had already hit the post when Senad Lulic side-footed a rebound past goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes in the fourth minute.

Henri Bienvenu took advantage of a mistake by defender Dawson to race in from 25 yards and score past Gomes, before Xavier Hochstrasser slipped his marker to make it 3-0 in the 28th with a shot to the far post.

Bassong headed in a 42nd-minute corner and Pavlyuchenko smashed a shot into the top corner to give Tottenham hope ahead of Wednesday's game at White Hart Lane, which has a natural grass field.

Tottenham, which clinched a playoff place by finishing fourth in last season's Premier League, has not been in Europe's top tournament since reaching the semifinals in 1962.

Former Tottenham striker Steffen Iversen scored to help Rosenborg beat FC Copenhagen.

Iversen sent a left-footed volley into the roof of the net from inside the area in the 23rd minute after clever play by Rade Prica and Markus Henriksen, who put the Norwegian side 2-0 up in the 57th when Anthony Annan's long-range shot went in off his heel.

Rosenborg missed several chances to extend its lead before Jesper Gronkjaer scored for Copenhagen in the 84th, glancing the ball in from a corner at the near post.

Ajax took the lead in the 57th in Kiev when Jan Vertonghen headed in a free kick after Dynamo's Denys Harmash had been sent off for a second yellow card. But Oleh Husev salvaged a 1-1 draw for 10-man Dynamo Kiev just nine minutes later when he broke free through the middle and slotted home.

Alexander Kerzhakov scored for Zenit in the third minute with a glancing header from 6 yards that bounced past goalkeeper Olivier Sorin.

Zenit dominated the first half but was unable to convert several chances. In a more even second half, Auxerre could have evened it but Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen lobbed the ball over the top after latching onto a long pass.

Strikers Momodou Ceesay and Tomas Oravec scored in the second half to lead Zilina 2-0 over Sparta Prague in the first leg of their playoff round and put the Slovak champion on course for a debut appearance in the Champions League.

Ceesay scored in the 51st with a right-foot shot from inside the area following a defensive blunder and Oravec headed in the second in the 73rd from a corner kick by Patrik Mraz.

There are five more first-leg matches Wednesday, with those return games also scheduled for next week.

In the Europa League playoffs, Greece's Aris beat Austria Vienna 1-0 and Turkey's Besiktas beat HJK Helsinki of Finland 2-0.

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