Spurs breeze into Champions League, Ajax back at top table

Spurs breeze into Champions League, Ajax back at top table

Peter Crouch scored a hat-trick as Tottenham Hotspur brushed aside Young Boys 4-0 Wednesday to make the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in their history, dpa reported.

   They were joined in Thursday's group-stage draw by former European champions Ajax, French side Auxerre, Copenhagen and Slovakian outfit MSK Zilina.

   Spurs, who were 3-0 down to the Swiss side in the first leg of the qualifying play-off before recovering to lose 3-2, were soon level on aggregate at White Hart Lane when Crouch headed in a Gareth Bale cross in the fifth minute.

   Fellow England striker Jermain Defoe swept in a second from outside the box in the 32nd minute - but admitted he played the ball with his hand first - before Crouch was again on target with a header from a Bale corner after an hour.

   The striker completed his hat-trick with a penalty in the 78th minute after Bale was brought down in the box by Senad Lulic who was shown a second yellow card.

   Harry Redknapp's side join northern London neighbours Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in a quartet of Premier League sides in the group stage of Europe's top club competition.

   The last time Tottenham were in Europe's premier cup competition was when Bill Nicholson's side were knocked out of the semi-finals of the 1962 European Cup by Benfica.

"It's fantastic," said Redknapp. "When I came here the dream was to get into the group stages and we've achieved that so that is something to look forward to.

"We haven't made many changes (to the squad) here and we don't need to. We are happy with the squad and unless we can improve it we will sit tight. We will give anybody a game. It is a tough place here and we want to progress as far as we can."

   Ajax, who won the old European Cup three times in successive years in the early 1970s and the Champions League in 1995, progressed with a 2-1 win over Dynamo Kiev to end a five-year absence from the group stage.

   Uruguay striker Luis Suarez netted two minutes before the break to put the Dutch side in front and Mounir El-Hamdaoui added a second in the 75th minute for Martin Jol's team before Andriy Shevchenko pulled one back with a penalty six minutes from time.

   Auxerre overturned a 1-0 defeat in the first leg to Zenit St Petersburg with a 2-0 win over Russia's 2008 UEFA Cup winners who had keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and defender Tomas Hubocan sent off in the second half.

   Cedric Hengbart opened the scoring in the ninth minute and Polish striker Ireneusz Jelen netted a second with an acrobatic volley eight minutes after the break as the French side booked their place in the group stage for the first time for eight years.

   Any hopes of a Zenit comeback were dashed when Malefeev was shown a red card for a handball outside the area in the 65th minute and Hubocan was dismissed following a second booking with 10 minutes remaining.

   Copenhagen edged Norway's Rosenborg Trondheim on the away goals rule following a 1-0 win, Icelandic defender Solvi Geir Ottesen getting the all-important goal in the 33rd minute.

   MSK Zilina completed a 3-0 aggregate win over Sparta Prague, with Momodou Ceesay on target in the first half for a 1-0 victory to put the Slovakian champions into the group stage for the first time.

The draw is in Monaco on Thursday evening, with the first group-stage matches set for September 14 and 15.

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