|DATE||Thursday 4th October 2012|
The stock of football in Greece has been plummeting much like the economy, with the link between the two being the key factor in the fortunes of the clubs in the country. With the finances hit hard, they have had to shed a lot of well paid players to keep the clubs financially viable and this has left them stripped of their assets. Many clubs had to pay players to leave in the January 2012 transfer window to stay afloat.
And having qualified for these tournaments, the sides have few players left who got them there. The weakened sides have suffered in European competition and Panathinaikos are currently on a six game winless run back home in their domestic league.
Already without Alain Boumsong the former Glasgow Rangers central defender, the Greeks may have to rely on some other former Premier League players to give Spurs a hard time. Quincy Owusu-Abeyie is a former Gooner and Birmingham City wide midfielder, who is tricky on the ball and likes a shot at goal, while Sebastien Leto was once of Liverpool and his forward play did not really profit at Anfield, with passport problems ending in him leaving, so the Argentine has found a home for his talents at Pana. Was out from January to the end of the season with an ankle injury and while he has a decent scoring rate,
The remainder of the team are a bit of a mystery, with most being home-grown players with a couple of Spanish imported members thrown into the squad. There is also a Senegal defender - Pape Sow - and an Uruguayan striker in Bruno Fornaroli, as well as Andre Pinto, a Portuguese defender, but none of these names are from the top drawer, although the youngsters have potential and that is what Pana are relying on now. There is hope that these young player swill lift them from their current eighth place in the table to the top echelons and that they will be able to recover form their 0-3 opening Europa League match defeat to Maribor, but I don't think this will be the game that turns around their campaign.
There haven't been many goals in the club's five league games, with three scored and three conceded, so it might be a tight game, but Spurs should be able to prove more dangerous than most clubs they will meet in their own league. In a partisan atmosphere, but in a huge stadium, Spurs should be able to quell the crowd and overcome the football team.
|PREDICTION||Panathinaikos 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2|
With the club having sacked their captain and midfielder Kostas Katsouranis, the side may have had some of the heart ripped out of it, although there were rumours about a negative influence the skipper was having over the Panathinaikos team. The team will also be missing Jean-Alain Boumsong in the centre of defence, but as he wasn't much good in Scotland, it will not be a benefit to Tottenham.
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs continue to be without Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee), Scott Parker (Achilles), Younes Kaboul (knee) and Jake Livermore (groin), but Kyle Naughton (leg) and Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring) might be fit to feature. There may be a question over the goalkeeping position after Cudicini's inclusion at Carlisle, although I expect Lloris to play as AVB is taking this competition seriously and will want to give his new signing some match time. Spurs may rest some players, such as Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, by keeping them on the bench.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
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Panathinaikos 0 (1)
Thursday 4th October 2012
Venue : Olympic Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur 1 (1)
Kick off 18:00
|Toche 77||Dawson 35|
Vyntra (foul) 76
Bale (foul) 40
Townsend (foul) 90
|Crowd : 23,000||Weather : Warm, dry|
|Referee : Mr. Florian Mayer (GER)||Assistant Referees : Holger Henschel (GER); Chrisoph Bornhorst (GER)|
|Fourth Official : Jan-Hendrik Salver (GER)||Other Assistant Referees : Christian Dingert (GER); Tobias Welz (GER)|
|Spurs kicked off the first half.|
|Panathinaikos :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
Aaron LENNON (31
Andros TOWNSEND 76 )
18 Jermain DEFOE
|Manager : Jesualdo Ferreira||Manager : Andre Villas-Boas|
|Sponsor : Onan||Shirt sponsor : Investec|
|Kit Supplier : adidas||Kit Supplier : Under Armour|
Once more we were treated to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the new Tottenham Hotspur team, as they turned from the side that beat Manchester United into the team that made QPR look so good in the recent match at the Lane, but managed to come out of this match in Athens with a point against Panathinaikos, when they should have been returning to Tottenham with all three.
I am not sure how many more times we will have to endure this torture, when the side looked so alarmingly at ease in the first half, they must have fallen asleep in the second and thought that there was no way that this barren Panathinaikos side could score against them. WRONG !! As usual with the Spurs of old, the failure to kill teams off when on top came back to haunt them and a 77th minute equaliser left the remaining time left featuring Spurs with a backs to the wall defensive effort to keep hold of one point.
It all looked so different when they kicked off the match, with Spurs in white pushing the green clad home side back further and further. Even though this happened, they didn't create too many shooting opportunities. Introducing Tom Huddlestone into the two in front of the back four, a place where he might be best utilised in future and bringing back the returning captain - Michael Dawson - should have given Spurs the personal to win all the personal battles across the pitch.
Spurs could have been ahead as early as the second minute, as they attacked from the off. Bale's corner came in, it was headed back into the goalmouth by Steven Caulker and Pinto moved his arm to the ball to stop it reaching Defoe behind him. Whether the referee was unsighted is a question to be answered, but perhaps a bigger question was how the other two officials in that half missed it too. If they can't see penalties as blatant as this, then they might as well save money and do away with the two behind the goals.
Tottenham flooded forward, with Vertonghen and Walker supporting outside the midfielders. Crosses came in, but were not always too well-flighted, being too close to the keeper Karnezis. Others were well cleared and when they did get in with a chance to shoot, bodies got in the way and Defoe was denied by a block, as well as Walker. It took twenty minutes to go really close, with Clint Dempsey taking a free kick just left of centre and curling it over the wall but a couple of feet wide. Another free kick a minute later saw Toche head the ball out, but only to the edge of the box, where Caulker helped the ball back in, but the keeper came to claim it.
Either side of the 25 minute mark, Defoe put in a low cross that the keeper fumbled and it was hacked away before Dempsey get to it, while Lennon had a run and shot that was not hard enough to trouble the Greek keeper. There was one forward foray by Pana before they went behind in the 35th minute. Yet another free-kick as the home side's players struggled to keep pace with those of Spurs allowed Huddlestone to curl a ball onto the edge of the six yard box and Michael Dawson glanced the ball past the keeper with his head. As the captain fell to the floor, you could se how genuinely pleased the rest of the players were for him as they celebrated with him.
A minute later and it could have been 2-0, as Bale drilled in a low shot that the keeper got all wrong, managing to keep the ball out luckily with his leg after getting in the wrong position to save it with his hands or body. Then a good piece of hold-up play by Defoe saw him set up Hud for a well controlled half-volley that ripped towards goal a foot off the floor all the way, but Karnezis was able to push it aside for a corner. At the other end there was a dodgy moment, when Loris came for a cross and under no pressure dropped it, but recovered to take it at the second attempt with no Panathinaikos player on hand to capitalise.
Then it was half-time, with Spurs cruising, but it might have made more sense to push Dempsey further forward, as there was no threat from the home team and they were there for the taking. Ferreira, the Greeks manager, made a change by bringing on Sissoko as a wide midfielder and he seemed to give them more strength down their right, which in turn pushed Vertonghen and Bale back.
Too often in the second half, Spurs were guilty of giving the ball away or getting caught unnecessarily offside. This lead to the home team getting some confidence to go forward and start to pull the Spurs players around to make space. With five minutes gone in the second half, Owusu-Obeiye tricked his way past Kyle Walker and crossed low to the near post, but Dawson intercepted it at the expense of a corner before Lloris could get to the ball.
Another five minutes passed and Clint Dempsey threaded a ball down the right side of their defence and Defoe ran onto it but his final shot lacked composure and it flew way too high of the target. Then Spurs had to defend and Walker did much better this time, witha well timed challenge on Sissoko as he burst onto a pass into the left hand side of the box, but his touch allowed the England right back to get back and take the ball away from the Ivory Coast international.
Still moving forward, Dempsey pulled a low save out of the keeper with a 25 yarder and Bale hit an early shot that narrowly missed the goal. AVB replaced Dempsey with Sigurdsson and then the teams swapped shots at goal, with Defoe having an effort deflected wide and Toche shooting way over from a free-kick, then Lennon went off to be substitute by Andros Townsend. It proved to be an untimely change, as a minute later, Panathinaikos broke down the right of their team and defender Seitaridis slid a ball square across the Tottenham defence that took Caulker out and found Toche. Running onto the ball, the Spanish striker only needed to get a touch as he slid in and the ball went past Hugo Lloris and in off the far pot to level things for Pana.
The home support among the 23,000 crowd that looked spartan in the 76,000 capacity Olympic Stadium (take note Irons) predictably went made with flares and flags (take note UEFA). Immediately, Spurs brought on Sandro for Huddlestone and the Greeks brought on another attacking player. The dynamic of the game had shifted and the green shirts now felt like they could get something and even more from this match.
In a frantic finish that saw Spurs grateful to Sigurdsson and Dawson for blocking shots that would have hit the target, the heady control of the first half evaporated in the heat of the Athens night.
In the end, the final whistle came as a relief, with the news coming through that Lazio had also won against Maribor, Spurs were left third in the group with two points to Maribor's three and Lazio's four. Next ahead lies a double header (away and at home) against Maribor, who had their defender Vidovic sent off, so he will miss the first meeting with Tottenham.
Two wins in the next two games becomes imperative, but with Lazio only managing a 1-0 win, it might be reliant on Spurs playing strong teams again to test the Slovenians with pace, which the Italian side lack. While the game in Rome will be very difficult, a last game win over Pana could be enough to go through, but if the club are taking the tournament seriously, then they need to be winning matches like this.
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|What you thought|
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Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
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