Premier League clubs enjoyed a successful evening as the Europa League moved into the knockout stages with Manchester United and Tottenham both earning emphatic wins and Leicester grabbing a valuable away draw.
Bruno Fernandes was once again United’s driving force as his two goals set United on the way to a handsome 4-0 away win against Spain’s Real Sociedad in the first leg of their last-32 clash.
In Budapest, Gareth Bale continued his overdue revival, scoring one goal and creating another as Tottenham enjoyed a 4-1 win over Austrian side Wolfsberg.
Meanwhile, Leicester put themselves in pole position to reach the last 16 after a 0-0 draw at Slavia Prague.
Two goals from Fernandes set United on their way to a convincing win that puts the English side firmly in control of the tie.
United started the game – played in Turin due to COVID-19 travel restrictions between Spain and the UK – strongly, but were thwarted several times by Sociedad keeper Alex Remiro.
Fernandes opened the scoring after 27 minutes following a mix-up between Remiro and central defender Robin Le Normand, allowing the Portuguese to roll his 20th goal of the season into an empty net.
He curled in his second from the edge of the box on 57 minutes, a goal initially ruled out for offside but corrected by VAR. Marcus Rashford added the third eight minutes later before Daniel James made it four in the dying seconds of the game.
Welshman Bale, whose starts have mainly been limited to the Europa League since returning to Spurs on loan from Real Madrid in October, set up Son Heung-min for the London club’s opener.
Bale struck a classy second goal in the 28th minute before Lucas Moura made it 3-0 with a solo effort before halftime.
Wolfsberg, the home side despite having to play in the Puskas Arena in Budapest because of Austrian COVID-19 travel restrictions, made a match of it after the break with Michael Liendl pulling a goal back from the penalty spot.
Chris Wernitznig almost scored again for the hosts when his shot struck the underside of the crossbar and stayed out before Tottenham substitute Carlos Vinicius, who had replaced Son at halftime, touched home his side’s fourth late on.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has never reached the last 16 of the competition after four attempts with Liverpool and Celtic.
But after a draw in the Czech Republic, the Foxes will be confident ahead of next week’s second leg at the King Power Stadium.
Harvey Barnes was denied by Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar in the first half but the visitors struggled to maintain their threat after the break.