|COMPETITION||Europa League Group J|
|DATE||Thursday 17th September 2015|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
Tottenham start their Europa League campaign with a home group match
against an unusual opponent in Qarabag - the Champions of Azerbaijan.
A long way from home, there might not be too much support for the
visitors, but they have shown that is not a drawback in the
In qualifying for the group stages, they beat Young Boys of Berne 4-0 on aggregate, proving that they are no mugs and they only just lost out 0-1 on aggregate to Glasgow Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers before the Scottish club were knocked out in the next round. With three wins out of five away ties in Europe, they have also shown that they are a side who have to be respected.
Their squad contains three Brazilians (one called Chumbino - Robinho's brother), a couple of Spanish midfielders, an Albanian, one Dutch, a Swede and a Frenchman. The goalkeeper comes from Bosnia-Herzegovina and is their national keeper, so he might provide a barrier to goal at 6' 3" tall. The only player I had heard of was Michel, who played against Spurs for Birmingham City the last time they were in the Premier League, being a tall midfielder he failed to make his mark on the top flight in England and has knocked around Europe since then, settling this summer in Azerbaijan.
Defender Raschad Sadygov is the team captain and the most experienced player with over 60 appearance sin European competition, while the danger man in terms of goals could be Richard Almeida, who has a scoring rate of one every five games. Apart from that, their team is a bit of a mystery, with no English team having faced Azerbaijani opposition at this stage and only West Ham United having played a team from there before in this season's qualifying game, with the Irons losing out 3-4 on aggregate.
We might see the likes of
Vorm, Rose, Lamela, Carroll, Trippier, Wimmer and Townsend start and
even get a glimpse of Njie, Pritchard, Winks and Onomah in action.
However, you only have to look at results elsewhere in Europe to see
that teams who have got this far have done so on merit and should
not be under-estimated. I am hoping that whatever team Spurs
put out - and they should be strong teams at home to get nine home
points - they are a cut above what Qarabag have faced so far.
The Azerbaijani team will be tough, well drilled and willing to give
everything, but if Spurs can get their game going against them, I
expect them to run out decent winners.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 3 Qarabag 0|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Without Christian Eriksen (knee), Nabil Bentaleb (ankle), Mousa Dembele (foot) and Ryan Mason (knee), the midfield will be changed in both defensive and attacking areas.
|QARABAG TEAM NEWS :|
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
Thursday 17th September 2015
White Hart Lane
Kick off 20:05
Son 27m 11s
Son 29m 25s
Lamela 85m 36s
|Richard Almeida 6m 11s|
Medvedev (foul on Njie) 83
Sehic (not taking goal-kick from right place) 85
Sadiqov (handbags) 87
Michel (foul on Alli) 90+1
Alli (handbags) 87
|Crowd : 26,463||Weather : Mild|
|Referee : Adrien Jaccottet (SUI)||Assistant Referees : Raffael Zeder (SUI) ; Vital Jobin (SUI)|
|Fourth Official : Johannes Vogel (SUI)||Additional Assistants : Alain Bieri (SUI); Nikolaj Hänni (SUI)|
|UEFA Observer : Peter Fröjdfeldt (SWE)||-|
|Qarabag kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Game time : - 90 + 4 minutes.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Qarabag :||kit|
Harry WINKS 76)
7 Heung-Min SON (10 Harry KANE 68)
|Manager : Mauricio Pochettino||Manager : Gurban Gurbanov|
|Sponsor : AIA||Shirt sponsor : Azersun|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : adidas|
A shock start was overcome by a slick Spurs side to beat Qarabag 3-1, but there were a few too many moments of concern for my liking.
With Spurs making a number of changes and debuts handed to Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier and substitute Clinton Njie, there was a little nervousness amongst the side as they faced Azerbaijani opposition for the first time. There shouldn't have been, but the lack of competitive match action together nearly cost Spurs in the first half. Tom Carroll came into the defensive midfield two, pairing up with Eric Dier. Dele Alli played centrally in the attacking three midfielders, flanked by Andros Townsend and Erik Lamela, leaving Son up front on his own.
Within moments of the
kickoff, Son had made a yard for a shooting position, only to square
the ball to Lamela, but Sehic came out to grab the ball off his
toes. Before that Qarabag had a chance when Lamela's pass didn't
reach Carroll and Reynaldo nipped in to stride forward on goal, but
his shot was mis-hit and although Hugo had to dive to his right, it
wasn't a tough save to make. They had more luck in the sixth
minute, when Agolli drove into the box from their left wing and
Kieran Trippier's debut got off to a bad start when he fouled the
visiting defender to concede a penalty. Almeida stepped up to take
it and slotted it past Lloris to the keeper's left to give Qarabag a
The understanding among the forward players appeared to be better than those at the back. Son played a one-two with Lamela and when he was played in on the left side of the box, he tried to chip the keeper, but never got the required elevation on his effort. Play moved quickly to the other end and while Wimmer got the ball out as Qarabag attacked, Quintana fired it back at goal and the ball missed the target by about a yard. Harry Kane came on for Son, denying him the chance of a hat-trick, but he would be needed for Sunday, while Townsend left the action to be replaced by debutant Clinton Njie. The Cameroon striker's first touch was to take a free-kick out on the left wing, but it failed to reach it destination, with a defender clearing it as it entered the box. There was defending to do still and Qarabag had a good chance when Reynaldo crossed to find Quintana's head and the ball was headed downwards, as the text books say, but it lacked any power and Hugo took the ball easily as it bounced up in the six yard box.
There was a moment's concern when Eric Dier went down injured after stretching for a tackle, but after treatment he was able to carry on and hit a 25 yard shot on target, although he was substituted by Harry Winks so as not to take any chances, with this game almost won. An even longer range shot was tried by Agolli, but it was straight at Lloris and with ten minutes left, Qarabag made a couple of substitutions. The last ten minutes got a bit fractious, with a flurry of bookings - a couple for bad fouls by the visitors, one for dissent, one for taking a goal-kick from outside the six yard box (different laws in Qarabag perhaps ?) and the Qarabag captain and Dele Alli for an exchange that saw the visiting captain complain about a mark on his thigh when he tried to foul Alli late and for the young Spurs midfielder for pushing him away. Losing their discipline contributed to the third Tottenham goal, coming directly after the keeper had been cautioned. His goal kick ended up with Sadygov, who was robbed by Harry Kane, who fed Lamela and despite taking his time, produced a delightful dink over the prone Sehic, who had gone down too early and this time the ball did hit the net to get the Argentinian a goal, which he celebrated with relief.
In the closing seconds of added time, Dele Alli produced a fine run on the left, coming inside into the area, beating two Qarabag players in the process, before rolling a slow, deliberate shot at goal that just crept past Sehic's left hand post. And at the end, Spurs were good winners, but it could have been much closer had the Azerbaijan side had any decent finishers. The rest of the games in the Europa League group will be tougher and Spurs will need to be tighter in their play.
The understanding between Alli, Son and Lamela was very pleasing, with some fantastic first time passing opening the opposition up, with some flicks and tricks included. This wound up the Qarabag players and invited some heavy tackles, but the way Tom Carroll and Eric Dier played in front of the back four, they won a lot of the ball through tackles or interceptions to keep them at bay. Wimmer looked solid, but he wasn't truly tested, so other games will be more of an examination, although Trippier looked better as the game went on after giving away the early penalty. Son took both of his goals well and looked happy to run at players, while Lamela had moments when he was tackled too easily, but he kept going and looked a better provider until he struck at the end. Carroll was busy and accurate with his passing, while Dele Alli showed the full range of his skills in the match, with nit-megs, back-heels and neat turns in tight situations. The side showed flashes of good movement and passing, which bodes well for the future.
So, three point sin the bag and top of the group as Anderlecht and Monaco played out a 1-1 draw. Harder games lie ahead, but the sooner we secure qualification for the knock-out stages, the better.
Qarabag are nicknamed the
Horsemen after a particularly long faced Chairman the club had when
they first formed.
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|Match programme sponsors||-|
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this round of matches :|
|Fenerbahce (TUR)||1||Molde (NOR)||3||Thursday|
|Ajax (HOL)||2||Glasgow Celtic||2||Thursday|
|Sion (SWI)||2||Rubin Kazan (RUS)||1||Thursday|
|Qabala (AZE)||0||PAOK (GRE)||0||Thursday|
|Borussia Dortmund (GER)||2||Krasnodar (RUS)||1||Thursday|
|Midtjylland (DEN)||1||Legia Warsaw (POL)||0||Thursday|
|Napoli (ITA)||5||Club Brugge (BEL)||0||Thursday|
|Rapid Vienna (AUS)||2||Villarreal (SPA)||1||Thursday|
|Vitoria Plzen (CZE)||2||Dinamo Minsk (RUS)||0||Thursday|
|FC Slovan Liberec (SVN)||0||Sporting Braga (POR)||1||Thursday|
|Groningen (HOL)||0||Marseille (FRA)||3||Thursday|
|Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR)||1||SS Lazio (ITA)||1||Thursday|
|St. Etienne (FRA)||2||Rosenborg (NOR)||2||Thursday|
|Sporting Lisbon (POR)||1||Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS)||3||Thursday|
|Skenderbeu (ALB)||0||Besiktas (TUR)||1||Thursday|
|Fiorentina (ITA)||1||FC Basel (SWI)||2||Thursday|
|Lech Poznan (POL)||0||Belenenses (POR)||0||Thursday|
|Anderlecht (BEL)||1||AS Monaco (FRA)||1||Thursday|
|Apoel Nicosia (TUR)||0||Schalke 04 (GER)||3||Thursday|
|Asteras Tripolis (GRE)||1||Sparta Prague (CZE)||1||Thursday|
|Partizan Belgrade (SER)||3||AZ Alkmaar (HOL)||2||Thursday|
|Athletic Bilbao (SPA)||3||Augsburg (GER)||1||Thursday|
|Group J Table|
Position before match :
Position after match : 1st
* Pub facts may not actually be true, but after a few pints everyone will think so.
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