Udinese outplay Tottenham; Aston Villa win

Paris, October 24:

English Premiership tailenders Tottenham found no respite from their domestic woes on Thursday in going down 2-0 at Italy’s Udinese in their opening UEFA Cup group match.

Udinese won through with goals from Antonio Di Natale - who scored from the penalty spot after a foul by Spurs’ keeper Heurelho Gomes - and Simone Pepe as the Italians emerged victorious to pile more pressure on the Londoners’ coach Juande Ramos.

Ramos elected to leave playmaker David Bentley out of his squad following a magazine article in which the player described the club’s start to the campaign, comprising two draws and six defeats in eight games, as “shocking”.

Making matters even worse was a dismissal for Jamie O’Hara, who was booked twice in a minute.

Already reeling from the worst league start in their history Spurs, who won the maiden UEFA Cup tournament in 1972, hardly needed Gomes making a hash of a backpass before bringing down Fabio Quagliarella after 24 minutes.

Di Natale put away the spotkick and Pepe then belatedly sealed the points for a side whose main creative spark was Arsenal target Gokhan Inler in midfield.

Spurs looked like a side short on confidence and were left to rue a Darren Bent header which he sent too close to keeper Samir Handanovic, who then did well to stop an Aaron Lennon drive before saving once more from Bent.

How long ago it must feel for Ramos that he twice took Seville to the trophy in 2006 and 2007. His old side beat Germany’s VfB Stuttgart 2-0 in their encounter on Thursday.

As Ramos again tasted defeat the man he replaced at White Hart Lane, Martin Jol, emerged triumphant as his new side Hamburg, top of the Bundesliga, won 2-1 at Slovakian side MSK Zilina.

Mladen Petric, back after a virus, scored the opener on 15 minutes and his fellow Croatian international Ivica Olic bagged a second just before the break before Emil Rilke netted a consolation.

In the same group, Aston Villa edged Dutch giants Ajax 2-1 in a meeting of former European champions with Gareth Barry scoring the winner.

But England’s other representative, Portsmouth, slumped to a 3-0 loss away to Portugal’s Sporting Braga, the hosts’ Latin American trio Luis Aguiar, Wason Renteria and Alan on target.

In the same group, David Beckham’s future side AC Milan won 3-1 at Dutch outfit Heerenveen helped by a Calvin Jong-A-Pin own goal and further strikes from Gennaro Gattuso and Filippo Inzaghi.

Schalke 04 gave further cheer to German fans as they beat Paris Saint Germain 3-1 in Group A. Kevin Kuranyi, discarded by Germany coach Joachim Loew for walking out on the squad following their World Cup qualifier against Russia, was smiling again as he scored one and made one.

Schalke, winners in 1997, went 3-0 up through a Larrys Mabiala own goal, a Kuranyi howitzer and a Halil Altintop clincher prior to Clement Chantome’s consolation.

Also off to a flier were Russia’s CSKA Moscow, who swamped Group H rivals Deportivo La Coruna 3-0 with Alan Dzagoev netting twice inside three first half minutes before Brazilian Vagner Love made the win safe with the third on the hour.

Turkey’s Galatasaray beat Olympiakos with former Liverpool man Harry Kewell scoring while Dutch outfit FC Twente, coached by former England boss Steve McClaren, edged Spain’s Racing Santander 1-0 in Schalke’s group.