Newcastle continued their march towards the UEFA Cup quarter-finals as Olympiacos collapsed in Greece, but Middlesborough's cup dreams hang on a thread tonight after a 3-2 defeat to Sporting Lisbon.
The home side had Grigorios Georgatos and Athanasios Kostoulas sent-off before half-time, by which time the visitors had taken a 2-1 lead with an Alan Shearer penalty and Laurent Robert free-kick either side of Predrag Djordjevic’s spot-kick.
Patrick Kluivert made it 3-1 21 minutes from time after a great run by substitute James Milner to leave the Magpies in the driving seat for the return at St James’ Park next Wednesday night.
Joseph-Desire Job and Chris Riggott kept Middlesbrough’s UEFA Cup dream alive with two late goals after Steve McClaren’s side had previously appeared dead and buried.
Sporting Lisbon bore all the hallmarks of potential champions as they strode into a 3-0 lead in the first leg of this last-16 tie on Teesside with goals from Alexandre Pedro Barbosa (49), Liedson (53) and Rodolph Douala (65).
But McClaren’s men showed their mettle and spirit by clawing their way back into the tie, although they will have to win by two clear goals in the return leg next week if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Auxerre earned the bragging rights in France after registering a deserved 1-0 first-leg win at Ligue 1 rivals Lille.
Guy Roux’s men, two places behind Lille in the domestic table, had the better of the first half and opened the scoring thanks to striker Kanga Akale’s splendid individual effort on the stroke of half-time.
The visitors could have gone further in front but Bonaventure Kalou, a danger all night, and Akale both crashed shots against the woodwork.
Lille rarely threatened and have their work cut out to overturn the deficit in the return leg, with Auxerre unbeaten at home in the league all season.
Real Zaragoza have the upper hand going into the second leg of their tie with Austria Vienna after claiming a 1-1 away draw at the Ernst Happel stadium.
Norway striker Sigurd Rushfeldt put the Austrians ahead just after the half hour when he fired home a sublime volley from outside the area.
But Victor Munoz’s side picked up what could be a crucial away goal with 16 minutes remaining when Brazilian winger Savio ran onto Fernando Soriano’s through-ball and drove home off the far post.
AZ Alkmaar continued their tremendous form this season by recording a superb 3-1 win over Ukrainian league leaders Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Cup Round-of-16 clash.
The Dutch side, second in the Eredivisie, went ahead when striker Robin Nelisse headed home a corner in twhe 27th minute.
But having missed a penalty through Darijo Srna on the half-hour, the hosts restored parity thanks to Brazilian midfielder Francelino Matuzalem on the stroke of half-time.
Defender Joris Mathijsen popped up in the 50th minute to reclaim the lead for AZ and Kenneth Perez’s last-gasp penalty means the Dutchmen now have one foot in the quarter-finals.
A late Ivan Tomic penalty earned Partizan Belgrade a 1-1 draw with CSKA Moscow.
The former Alaves midfielder slotted home an 83rd-minute spot-kick to give the Serbo-Montenegrin side hope of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition.
It looked like they would be travelling to the Russian capital with a one-goal deficit after midfielder Evgeni Aldonin had put the visitors ahead in the 17th minute but Partizan fought back valiantly and deserved the draw.
The match between Steaua Bucharest and Villarreal was postponed just before kick-off in Romania because of heavy snow which made the pitch unplayable.