Pirlo puts Juventus into Europa League quarters

STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer Published:

Juventus was indebted to another moment of magic from Andrea Pirlo to qualify for the Europa League quarterfinals, where the competition favorites were joined by Benfica, Lyon and Valencia on Thursday.

Pirlo whipped home a fierce free kick in the 71st minute to seal Juventus' 1-0 win over Italian rival Fiorentina in their last-16 second leg and a 2-1 victory on aggregate.

The classy Italy midfielder shows no sign of decline at the age of 34 -- he scored a similarly sublime free kick for his team in a last-gasp league win over Genoa on Sunday, which kept Juve 14 points clear in Serie A and on course to defend its title.

Juventus will be hosting the Europa League final on May 14 and the runaway Italian league leader may yet be playing in the showpiece match.

Benfica remained on course for a return to the final of Europe's second-tier competition after surviving a late fightback by Tottenham to draw 2-2 in their second leg and advance 5-3 on aggregate.

Two goals in less than two minutes by Nacer Chadli put Spurs 2-1 ahead on the night and gave them 11 minutes to score another, which would have forced extra time. The English team missed a number of chances before conceding a penalty deep into injury time, converted by Lima.

Lyon also needed to dig deep to reach the last eight, despite holding a 4-1 lead from the first leg against Viktoria Plzen.

Plzen recovered from conceding an early goal and took a 2-1 lead by the 62nd after goals by Daniel Kolar and Stanislav Tecl. Tecl struck the post with a penalty in the 70th when a successful effort would have set up a tense finish, allowing Lyon to hold on for a 5-3 aggregate win.

Valencia beat Ludogorets Razgrad 1-0 thanks to Paco Alcacer's 59th-minute goal and advanced 4-0 on aggregate. AZ Alkmaar was the other team to progress from the early games, holding out for a 0-0 draw at Anzhi Makhachkala and a 1-0 aggregate victory.

Three more last-16 matches, including Napoli-Porto and Real Betis-Sevilla, were completed late Thursday.