PARIS - Gareth Bale struck two magical free-kicks as Tottenham edged Lyon 2-1 in the Europa League last-32 yesterday, but Liverpool's hopes were on a knife-edge after a 2-0 defeat at Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.
Bale beat Lyon keeper Remy Vercoutre with a dipping 35-yard free-kick on the stroke of halftime at White Hart Lane and then repeated the precision in the third minute of injury time at the end of the first leg tie.
In between, Samuel Umtiti had buried a fierce drive past Brad Friedel in the Spurs goal to keep the French side in the tie.
"I'm delighted. I've been practising free-kicks and I scored one like that last week," said Bale.
In Russia, two goals in three minutes midway through the second half turned the tide in Zenit's favour against Liverpool on a badly churned-up pitch in the country's former Imperial capital.
That makes the home leg at Anfield an uphill struggle, but disappointed Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers tried to put a brave face on the defeat.
"I thought we looked solid and a threat going forward and could have been in the lead at half-time," he said.
Big-money Brazilian signing Hulk put the Russians ahead in the 69th minute with a blistering shot from the edge of the area which just clipped Martin Skrtel to wrong-foot Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.
Then on 72 minutes, Sergei Semak ghosted in behind Skrtel and Glenn Johnson to arrive unmarked on the left to clinically dispatch Aleksandr Anyukov's cross from the right past Reina.
In the Czech Republic, Chelsea substitute Oscar grabbed the only goal of a largely lacklustre game in the 82nd minute against Sparta Prague, just 45 seconds after coming off the bench.
Oscar collected a ball from Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard and fired home into the bottom corner of the net.