OPPONENTS Panathinaikos (Greece)
COMPETITION Europa League  Group J
DATE Thursday 6th December 2012
VENUE White Hart Lane






Coming into the last group match, Spurs need to draw to go through, when realistically, the qualification for the knock-out stage could have been wrapped up long ago.

Panathinaikos arrive at White Hart Lane with money troubles dogging them back in Greece, much as they are for the rest of their countrymen and women.  But will the club who cannot pay their electricity bills have the energy for this last fight ?  Their home record in the competition is good with 1-1 draws with Lazio and Spurs, before beating Maribor 1-0 to give them a chance of progressing, but away from home, they have suffered two 0-3 defeats so far.

They have fared better in their domestic league with two straight wins, which has left them in sixth place, but they will have to match Spurs and then do a bit more to go through.  If Tottenham can recapture the spirit that has carried them through the last three matches with three victories, then they should have enough to see off the Greeks.  They should have done so before now, but need to develop a ruthless streak.

Offering little in resistance in their previous two away games, it looks like Pana do not travel well, but they may have a sizeable following here, with the local Greek community turning out to support them.  We have knowledge of some of their players from their time in the Premier League.  Quincy Owusu-Abeyie was a former Arsenal and Birmingham City winger and Jean-Alain Boumsong played centre-half for Newcastle United.   Neither was top notch Premier League quality and they have filtered down to the Greek league, where they are doing OK. 

Papa Sow proved to be a physical presence for Panathinaikos in the first meeting, with Toche being the one who earned a draw with a goal in the last twenty minutes.  But the side as a whole were slow and ponderous in their moves and Spurs need to be urgent from the start to ensure they get what they want from this game.

A strong side is expected to be put out by Spurs in this match to ensure they progress, which will be a wind-change in attitude from last season, when it was a bit of an intrusion into the club's attempt to qualify for the Champions League.

Whether this campaign will affect our efforts to finish fourth or higher, we will see, but the more important thing would be to continue our winning ways.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2        Panathinaikos    0
Spurs will go into this deciding group game without Michael Dawson (hamstring), Gareth Bale (hamstring), Scott Parker (Achilles), Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee) and Younes Kaboul (knee).  Emmanuel Adebayor is available after serving a three match Premier League ban.

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Tottenham Hotspur  3 (1)                                     Panathinaikos  1 (0)
Europa League
Thursday 6th December 2012                               Kick off  20:05
White Hart Lane
Adebayor 29
Karnezis (o.g.) 76
Defoe 83
Zeca 54
Naughton (foul on Sissoko) 66  


Spyropoulos (foul on Lennon)



Crowd :   32,554 Weather :  Rainy - light to heavy
Referee :  Pawel Gil (POL) Assistant Referees :  Piotr Sadczuk; Marcin Barkowski(POL)
Fourth Official :  Konrad Sapela (POL) Additional Assistants - Robert Malek; Hubert Siejewisz (POL)
Panathinaikos kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Panathinaikos : kit
24  Brad FRIEDEL (c)

28  Kyle WALKER
33  Steven CAULKER
16  Kyle NAUGHTON     

  7  Aaron LENNON (29  Jake LIVERMORE 87)
  2  Clint DEMPSEY (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 80)
Tom CARROLL (19  Mousa DEMBELE 75)

18  Jermain DEFOE 
10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR 

Unused subs: 
59  Kevin STEWART
31  Andros TOWNSEND

  27  Orestis KARNEZIS  (o.g.)

16  Giorgos SEITARIDIS (c)
24  Loukas VYNTRA
31  Nikos SPYROPOULOS     

17  Jose Carlos ZECA 
  6  Victor VITOLO
20  Papa Habib SOW (10  Lazaros CHRISTODOULOPOULOS 60)
  7  Charis MAVRIAS (14  Bruno FORNAROLI 83)
  Ibrahim SISSOKO

  9  Jose TOCHE (28  Antonis PETROPOULOS 78)

Unused subs: 
40  Stefanos KAPINO
22  Stergos MARINOS
44  Jose Manuel VELASQUEZ
41  Diamantis CHOUCHOUMIS

Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas Manager :  Ioannis Vanortis & Juan Ramon Rocha
Sponsor :   Investec Shirt sponsor :  Onan
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

While this didn't have to be a must win game, it was certainly a don't lose match. But for a short spell in the second half, it looked like the comfort that Spurs had enjoyed might just end up with them on the wrong end of a result, before the stepped up their game and ran out 3-1 winners against Panathinaikos to go through to the knock out stages of the Europa League.

Without Michael Dawson and Gareth Bale, Spurs lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Tom Carroll preferred to Mousa Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor restored to the forward line with Jermain Defoe, leaving Clint Dempsey to play in the middle of midfield. Brad Friedel got a game in goal, with Hugo Lloris rested for Premier League duty.

In the first half, the system didn't seem to be functioning properly, with Spurs playing a slow passing game, content to hold onto the ball and not looking too penetrative, with Adebayor dropping deep a lot of the time, leaving Defoe stranded up front.

With the team having trouble in getting the ball to Lennon and the full backs not being able to get into advanced positions, Spurs struggled to get through to the Panathinaikos goal. Dempsey's promptings from midfield were not finding his intended target and Sandro's use of the ball was untidy too, despite his defensive work being up to it's usual energetic level.

Panathinaikos could have gone into the lead, when a quickly take free kick by Seitaridis found Toche, running in untracked by a Spurs player on the right hand side of the goal. Luckily, he failed to make a decent contact on the ball and it was a straight-forward save, hit straight at Friedel. That was halfway through the half and just seven minutes later, Tottenham were ahead.

Once more, it was Dempsey who was central to the goal, with a pass similar to one he produced on Sunday at Fulham, but this time, his ball through the middle of the the Greek defence and Adebayor was on the end of it to open up his body to shoot past Panathinaikos goalkeeper Karnezis.  Having been found in space by Kyle Walker, Clint stretched to play a pass into the path of Adebayor and his finish was confident and clinical.

Spurs had been restricted to long shots that missed the target or their attacking moves broke down around the edge of the box.  Just before half time a Lennon cross from the left was headed down in the box by a Greek defender under pressure from Dempsey and the ball fell to Defoe, but it wouldn't come down quickly enough for him and his rising shot ended up in the Park Lane crowd.  There was still just time for Tom Carroll, who had been quietly effective linking play, while taking a bit of a kicking from the Panathinaikos players, to put Adebayor away on the left of the box, but a poor first touch saw him rush his shot and it was blocked by a defender.

The half-time interval saw Spurs players from previous European campaigns recall their experiences as part of the promotion for the new Spurs book, "The Glory Glory Nights."  Cliff Jones, Mark Falco and Phil Beal all told of their parts in European trophy success and it was hoped that his might filter through to the dressing room to perk up the Tottenham team of the present.

It seemed to have worked, as an almost action replay of the first goal came about, as Dempsey slipped in Defoe on the edge of the box and his low shot to the keeper's right beat the stopper, but not the foot of the post, with the ball rebounding across the face of goal. 

But worse was to come for Tottenham in the 54th minute, when Spyropouos swung in a deep cross from the left and Kyle Naughton allowed Zeca to go un-noticed behind him, coming in on the ball to head low across Friedel into the bottom corner of the net.  The green hordes from Greece (and probably many from London too) went into paroxysms of joy.  It was something that might have been coming, as Spurs seemed to be sitting a bit deeper, but it was a poor goal to concede.

And there was more to come.  Naughton swung to clear a ball into the heart of the penalty area and it only connected with Vertonghen, leaving the ball to drop to a grateful Toche right in the centre of the six yard box.  How he failed to make the opportunity count, I don't know.  But I'm glad he didn't.  Poking out a foot, the ball went a couple of feet wide of Friedel's right hand post with the keeper rooted to the spot.  Spurs were also grateful to Vertonghen when another long left wing cross seemed to be heading onto Toche's head, but for the Belgian getting an important touch on it to take it away from the striker at the far post.

Sandro's surging run down the right wing brought a free-kick for a foul on him as he approached the dead ball line.  Spurs took the opportunity to bring on Mousa Dembele for the fading Carroll, leaving the Greeks a new problem from this set-piece.  With Defoe making a nuisance of himself and the defenders keen to haul Caulker back by his arm every time he went up for a corner or free-kick, it was a darting run by Clint Dempsey that got on the end of Kyle Walker's free-kick and is header smashed against the bar, bounced out, but then back into the net via the back of goalkeeper Karnezis.  it was unlucky for the goalie, but the defence had left Deuce completely free and he made the most of the space given to him.

The goal seemed to deflate Panathinaikos and the way that Spurs held onto possession with no real pressure from the green shirts now, contrasted with the spell after their goal, when they closed down with vigour and Spurs found it hard to control the game.

Therefore, perhaps it was obvious that Tottenham would get a third goal.  With eight minutes left, it was Jermain Defoe who added to this season's collection with a well taken goal that people might have been raving about if Lionel Messi had scored it.  Aaron Lennon was committing the Greek defence and a long run from on the right on the halfway lien saw him come inside to the D of the box and play a neat reverse pass to Defoe, who had run across him to the right.  Taking the ball in his stride without hesitating, Jermain lifted a delicate dink over the keeper as he came out at his feet and the ball nestled in the net to see Tottenham through to the Round of 32.

There was little more action, as Spurs ran down time and the Greeks just wanted to go home.  But for a while in the second half, things had looked much more worrying than the final score-line indicated.  Spurs had looked like they were bossing the game, but one error gave Pana hope and another moment of fortune almost saw the Greeks go a goal up.  On such small margins is success and failure decided.

So, it looks as though the club are taking the Europa League seriously this season and with some very good teams dropping out of the Champions League, a second place finish in the group was not the worst thing to happen.  Having just played their 100th match in the UEFA Cup/Europa League format, you wonder how many more they might rack up this season ?  Will AVB be looking to go all the way ?  Maybe, but the struggle for fourth place or higher in the league table is surely the priority.

Isaac Gregory


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Other scores this matchday  :
Group A
Udinese  (ITA) 0 Liverpool 1 Thursday
BSC Young Boys (SWI) 3 FC Anji Makhachkala (RUS) 1 Thursday
Group B
FC Viktoria Plzen (CZE) - Atletico Madrid (SPA) - Thursday
Hapoel Tel Aviv FC (ISR) - Academica de Coimbra (POR) - Thursday
Group C
Fenerbahce SK (TUR) - VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach (GER) - Thursday
AEL Limassol (CYP) - Olympique de Marseille (FRA) - Thursday
Group D
FC Girondins de Bordeaux (FRA) - Newcastle United - Thursday
CS Maritimo (POR) - Club Brugge KV (BEL) - Thursday
Group E
FC Copenhagen (DEN) - FC Steaua Bucharesti (ROM) - Thursday
VfB Stuttgart (GER) - Molde FK (NOR) - Thursday
Group F
FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR) - AIK (SWE) - Thursday
SSC Napoli (ITA) - PSV Eindhoven (HOL) - Thursday
Group G
Sporting Lisbon (POR) - Videoton FC (HUN) - Thursday
KRC Genk (BEL) - FC Basel 1893 (SWI) - Thursday
Group H
Internazionale (ITA) - Neftci PFK (AZE) - Thursday
FK Partizan Belgrade (SER) - Rubin Kazan (RUS) - Thursday
Group I
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) - Hapoel Kiryat Shmona (ISR) - Thursday
Athletic Bilbao (SPA) - Sparta Prague (CZE) - Thursday
Group J
Maribor (SLN) - SS Lazio (ITA) - Thursday
Group K
SK Rapid Vienna (AUS) - FC Metalist Kharkiv (UKR) - Thursday
Bayer 04 Leverkusen (GER) - Rosenburg BK (NOR) - Thursday
Group L
Levante UD (SPA) - Hannover 96 (GER) - Thursday
FC Twente Enschede (HOL) - Helsingborgs IF (SWE) - Thursday


League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 SS Lazio 5 2 3 0 5 1 9 +4
2 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 5 1 4 0 5 3 7 +2
3 Panathinaikos 5 1 2 2 3 8 5 -5
4 NK Maribor 5 1 1 3 5 6 4 -1

Position before match :  2nd
Position after match : 


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