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Stoke Tops Europa League Group; Spurs, Fulham, Birmingham Win

Stoke beat Besiktas 2-1 to move atop its group in soccer’s Europa League, as English rivals Tottenham, Fulham and Birmingham also won.

John Walters scored with a penalty kick in the 78th minute last night to give Stoke the home win. The Potters lead Group E with four points, one more than Besiktas, after the second round of matches in Europe’s second-tier club competition.

“It’s far too early to start thinking about going through to the next stage,” Stoke manager Tony Pulis told his club’s website. “The important thing is we have targeted winning our matches which should give us a great chance and this is an excellent start in that respect.”

Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani dos Santos scored in a five-minute span of the second half as Tottenham beat Shamrock Rovers 3-1. Spurs share the top spot in Group A with Rubin Kazan, which tied PAOK Salonika 2-2.

Andy Johnson scored both goals as Fulham defeated Odense 2-0 to stay level with FC Twente, which beat Wisla Krakow 4-1, atop Group K.

Birmingham won 2-1 at Maribor on goals from Chris Burke and Wade Elliott and is three points behind Bruges, which beat Braga 2-1, in Group H.

Almen Abdi’s penalty kick in the 88th minute earned Udinese a 1-1 draw at Celtic. Udinese and Atletico Madrid, which tied 1-1 at Rennes, have four points in Group I, three more than Celtic and Rennes.

Anderlecht, PSV Eindhoven, Athletic Bilbao and Sporting Lisbon all lead their groups after winning for the second straight time.

Schalke tops Group J after beating Maccabi Haifa 3-1, Standard Liege and Hannover both won to share the Group B lead, while Metalist Kharkiv’s 1-1 tie with AZ Alkmaar left the two even in Group G.

The two top teams in each of the 12 groups advance to the knockout phase along with the eight third-place finishers from the elite Champions League group stage.

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