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Friday, Aug. 27, 2010

Spurs advance on Crouch's hat trick

LONDON (AP) Tottenham and Slovakian champion Zilina qualified for the Champions League for the first time Wednesday, and Auxerre, Ajax and FC Copenhagen also reached the group stage of Europe's top club competition.

News photo
Big night: Tottenham's Peter Crouch scores on a header against Young Boys in their Champions League second-leg qualifier on Wednesday night at White Hart Lane. Spurs won 4-0 and advanced 6-3 on aggregate. AP PHOTO

Peter Crouch scored a hat trick as Tottenham thrashed Swiss side Young Boys 4-0 to overturn a 3-2 first-leg away deficit and reach the top flight in Europe for the first time since 1962.

"It's fantastic, it's been a long time since Tottenham played in the top European competition," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. "To get in the main competition and the group stages . . . when I came here that was the dream for me."

Zilina beat Sparta Prague 1-0 to build on its 2-0 victory in the Czech Republic last week, and Auxerre beat nine-man Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 to advance 2-1 on aggregate and reach the Champions League for the first time since 2002.

Ajax, a four-time European champion, beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 after being held 1-1 last week. Copenhagen qualified on away goals by beating Rosenborg 1-0 at home to secure a 2-2 aggregate result.

FC Braga, Werder Bremen, Hapoel Tel Aviv, FC Basel and Partizan Belgrade advanced to the group stage on Tuesday.

Tottenham's victory ensures England is the only country with four teams in Thursday's draw, with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United securing automatic qualification.

In the first leg in Bern, Young Boys scored three goals inside 30 minutes to nearly end Tottenham's Champions League bid at the first hurdle. But after reducing the deficit by two goals in the loss, Spurs responded with an electric start of their own at White Hart Lane.

Crouch headed in Gareth Bale's corner in the fifth minute, while Jermain Defoe scored a contentious second in the 32nd after controlling a through ball from Bale with his left hand.

Bale provided again for Crouch as the England striker headed in a corner from the Wales midfielder in the 61st. And Crouch completed his hat trick from the penalty spot in the 78th after Bale was fouled by Senad Lulic, who received a second yellow card.

In Zilina, Momodou Ceesay scored in the 18th minute after latching onto Emil Rikle's pass as Sparta Prague failed to qualify for the group stage for the fifth straight season.

"We are extremely happy that we got there," Zilina coach Pavel Hapal said.

Ajax is back among Europe's elite for the first time since 2005.

Luis Suarez sent Jan Vertonghen's free kick past goalkeeper Maxim Koval just before halftime, and Mounir El Hamdaoui added Ajax's second in the 75th after receiving a pass from substitute Miralem Sulejmani.

"This is really important for the club," Suarez said. "It's been a long time since we made it to this stage. I am really happy. With this group, we can win everything."

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