Two early goals sealed Tottenham's fate in
this season's UEFA Cup competition, but they went down with a spirited
fight-back to preserve a home record in Europe of only one defeat, as
they grabbed what, after fifteen minutes, looked like an unlikely draw.
A slice past Robbie Keane on the line from Steed Malbranque gave Sevilla
a cream start after just two minutes and Kanoute contrived to miss a
close range header before he combined with the Russian Kerzhakov to
waltz around the Spurs defence and Paul Robinson to stroke home the
second with just eight minutes on the clock.
The quick start Tottenham hoped to
replicate from the first leg had gone the other way and Tottenham looked
lethargic and lop-sided. With King slotting back alongside Dawson
in central defence, it allowed Chimbonda to move to full back, but with
Lee missing, the French defender was played at left back, with Tainio
coming in at right back. Every time Pascal got forward, he had to
check back onto his right foot and he was guilty of trying to play too
much football out of defence. A lot of Sevilla's forays came down
his side and Tottenham could easily have been 0-4 down at the break.
King has needlessly given away a corner
that the first goal came from and Dawson picked up a booking for a rash
tackle from behind. He was lucky that it wasn't worse, when late
in the first half, he crashed into a tackle on the West Stand touchline
and was fortunate that the Spanish player broke past him and kept on his
feet. The ref was having a shameful display, with a large majority
of the free-kicks given to the visitors, while every yellow card of the
game (and one red) went to Tottenham. It was hardly as if Sevilla
were the sinned against parties on every occasion. Having been 2-0
ahead, their players set about some disgraceful play-acting and
time-wasting. For a side as good as they are, it only tarnished
their reputation. It is a side of the game that needs dealing with
and this referee was so weak that there was no control over either
aspect of the La Liga side's gamesmanship. So bad was he that he
showed Chimbonda a yellow card for a foul on Alves, before the referee
booked Malbranque instead in one of the most blatant cases of wrongful
identification you will ever see.
Tottenham played a long ball game in the
first half and with Berbatov regularly penalised for fouling his marker
as he jumped for the ball, it was a tactic doomed to failure.
Keane got in on the quarter of an hour to take the ball around the
stand-in keeper, but could only dink it back into his hands when he had
time to pick out a Spurs player. Kanoute and Adriano both missed
when well-placed, while Spurs struggled to get Aaron Lennon into the
game. Five minutes before half-time, Zokora went on one of his
trademark runs and caused consternation in the visiting defence, setting
up Berbatov who shot wide. He got closer nearer half-time, as his
18 yard shot bounced away off the post with Cobeno stranded.
Having failed to get back into the match
before the break, it would have taken a Herculean effort to go through,
but it didn't stop Spurs having a go. Zokora's direct running was
causing problems after the interval and Navarro clashed with him in the
box, seeming to pull him around, but the ref waved play on (as he did
for most of the night ... even when no advantage accrued). The
Ivorian tried to break his duck with Spurs when well played in on the
edge of the box, but his measured shot lacked power and was easily saved
by the stand-in goalie. Spurs really failed to test him and even
after 90 minutes, he had not had many shots to save.
Poulsen looked to have stamped on Jenas'
head when they clashed on the touchline, but whether it was intentional,
it was hard to tell. But it was Zokora who made way for Jermain
Defoe on 65 minutes after he had been brought down for a free-kick.
The ball was floated in, but headed out to Robbie Keane on the edge of
the 18 yard box. His volley came in from the left of the area,
struck into the ground and standing in front of the keeper, Defoe got
the final touch (his first) on the ball to divert it into the net.
With a minute, Spurs were level.
Roared on by the crowd, who thought that Sevilla might be crushed by the
pressure, Spurs got the ball into the area once more and it bounced
around before falling kindly for Lennon to steer home from close range
Game on and it was a question now of if
Tottenham could get a third to put pressure on the Spanish side towards
the end. Ramos broke up the Spurs momentum with some substitutions
and put more defenders on, leaving Puerta to support the forwards with
runs from left back. It was his 79th minute lung-busting run ended
with a shot that Robbo did well to palm aside for a corner. The
play switched to the other end and only a deflection denied Berbatov a
goal as it was inches over the bar for a Tottenham corner. The
second phase after the corner saw the ball drop in front of goal, eight
yards out, to Michael Dawson and he got his effort all wrong and it
cleared the bar, when he should have hit the target. With seven
minutes left, it would have made for a grandstand finish.
Robinson pulled off another fine stop to
deny the marauding Puerta, while Dimitar spurned a great opening when he
tried to go for precision with a side-footed shot after Lennon played
the ball back to him. it was a comfortable save for the Sevilla
goalie, who was untroubled by a Jenas free-kick which he skied over the
bar from 25 yards out. Defoe played a cross behind the goal and
then curled a shot wide of the far post when he cut into the left side
of the area.
In defence, Tainio made a super block as
Maresca fired an effort in from the edge of the Tottenham box.
With moments remaining, Defoe was booked for a foul and then, as a ball
bounced high near the side-line, Tainio challenged for the ball and
Puerta went on to roll over many times after he was caught by the Finn.
Expecting a yellow perhaps, Tainio was shocked to see red in added time.
Into the final minute of added time,
Robbo came forward for a last gasp corner. The ball flew over his
head, but he stayed on the edge of the box, the ball came to him and he
chested it down and struck a volley that might have seen him notch his
second goal of the season, had Poulsen not blocked the drive.
And then it was over. As was our
UEFA Cup campaign. It had been a lesson in how to play European
football from Sevilla. They took their chances, as we failed to
do, both here and in Spain. They held the ball well and stroked it
around comfortably, while Spurs huffed and puffed and gave the ball away
by playing too many percentage balls. Sevilla showed that they can
defend, by getting numbers back behind the ball and not leaving spaces
for the other side to move into. They capitalised on the space we
allowed them and punished Tottenham for it.
There was no trouble with the crowd and
the good natured and vocal Sevilla fans made the occasion one like the
good old European nights.
The only difference being on those nights
we used to win.
We can learn from this experience and how
to play the game in Europe, but we did show that we are not too far
behind the likes of Sevilla, who will go on to do well in the semi-final
and probably the final. They are a class side, but we need to
tighten up at the back and be more decisive in our finishing up front.
But that is for another day ... starting Sunday.