Not one of the greatest European nights in Tottenham's history but an
important one and one which might not yet see us through to the group
stages of the UEFA Cup, but the 2-1 victory over Wisla Krakow was the
first win of the season and one which might boost the confidence of the
newly formed side.
It wasn't a
smooth performance, but the team played well enough to win and allowed a
one goal advantage to be taken to Poland for a second leg which will be
played in an intimidating atmosphere if the attendance of their fans at
White Hart Lane was anything to go by. The fact that they popped
up all around the ground when their goal went in and prompted a rush of
stewards to where they were and also the fact that their fans sung
incomprehensible songs and jumped up and down all game will no doubt
give them the benefit of the doubt when the referee is giving decisions.
But back to this game and Spurs
approached it with a changed time from Monday night due to injury and
cup-tied players. Pavlyuchenko and Corluka were made to sit out
and Modric had to be sidelined with his knee knock, while in came
Bentley, Jenas and King, as well as Gunter and Giovani, with Huddlestone
and Dawson standing down from the starting line-up against Villa.
The side looked a bit better balanced,
but Bent was still up front on his own, which meant there was often a
big gap between him and the midfield. Our general play saw us lose
the ball a little less and look a bit more solid, but the final pass
still went astray too often and chances went begging when we might have
made more of certain situations. Unfortunately, David Bentley had
a mare and his crossing was way below the level expected.
Spurs looked to start at a high tempo,
which was something that seemed to suit Krakow, who wanted to play the
same way. A first minute scramble after Wisla keeper Pawalek
fumbled a low cross saw Bent go in and hit the deck, but nothing was
given. Breaking on the Tottenham goal, too much space was given to
Sobolewski, who hit a shot that missed the goal by about two feet.
Wide positions were well created, but the
resulting crosses from Bentley and Lennon failed to find a Spurs shirt.
One corner from Bentley eventually landed on Woodgate's head at the far
post, with his header forcing Pawalek to flap it wide with a desperate
dive in the 23rd minute and a minute later, Tottenham were indebted to
their captain Ledley King how got in the way of a volley from Boguski.
King looked a bit off the pace and I am sure that his ability to only
play the odd game here and there will not help his or the team's game.
On the half hour, Bent seized on a mis-judgement
by Cleber, who missed a Bentley pass and it took the Krakow keeper to
bravely come out to meet the Spurs forward and block the ball away.
it was only a brief respite though, as Lennon skipped past a challenge
on the left wing and dragged a left footed cross low to the far post
behind the defenders who had run in towards goal. Luckily, for
once, Spurs had a man at the back post and David Bentley swept the ball
left footed, first time past the keeper and into the side of the goal
where the goalie had just come from. It is the cross that Lennon
might find more productive with players rushing into the box, it makes
defenders think twice about making contact with the ball and it might
let our players in with an opportunity, as it did in this case.
It was the goal that we had hoped would
calm the team and give them something to build on. Unfortunately,
the Poles built on it by plastering the ball past Gomes as the Spurs
defence bricked it. A soft throw-in was conceded inside the Spurs
half, when Zokora could have wellied it up-field and when it was taken,
a soft challenge and then suddenly, Tottenham plumbed the depths of
naive defending by King and Zokora both playing the scorer Jirsak
onside, while not marking anyone nor going towards the ball. 67
seconds it took. Fast workers these Polish.
Tottenham looked to get back into the
game and a Bale cross to Bentley at the far post saw him blaze a volley,
which the keeper pushed out, but looked to be going wide anyway.
The England wide man seemed to be the one who ahs been delegated to take
free-kicks, but in a match when his delivery was not that great, it
might have made sense to let Gareth Bale have a go, as he is just as
good with his left as Bentley is supposed to be with his right.
Gomes was forced to dive to knock the
ball wide when Krakow had a chance when Boguski knocked the ball towards
goal five minutes before the break. The Portuguese referee had
been lenient until just before the break, when Sobolowski fouled a Spurs
player in the middle of the pitch and the referee only showed him the
yellow card when he threw the ball away.
After the break, we saw the same Spurs
eleven re-enter the field. When a defensive header fell to
Bentley, he drove on towards the area and hit s shot that the keeper put
over the top and then Jenas' clever ball through to Giovani opened up a
chance in the area, but the Mexican chose to look square for Darren Bent
rather than go for goal himself. Bent was denied ten minutes into
the half, when Spurs played some near passing football on the left wing
and Jeans put a low ball into the near post, where Darren put the ball
away neatly, only to see the lineman raise his flag for an offside for
the first time in the game.
Almost immediately, Lennon and Gunter
were replaced by Fraizer Campbell and Jamie O'Hara. It seemed an
odd move, as Lennon was doing well on the flank and the formation
suddenly switched to a 4-4-2. The loan striker was quickly in
action, with a cross to the far post, where a defensive header took it
away from Bent on the hour. At the other end Sobolewski hit a long
shot wide and then Bale and King allowed Lobodzinski's ball to be got by
Cantoro, but he panicked and fired well over from just outside the six
The Spurs midfield were starting to link
better and Jermaine Jenas slipped Bent through and he got a shot away,
but it flew off a defender for a corner. On 72 minutes, he did
even better. Campbell used his pace and trickery to get away down
the right wing, taking the ball to the line. He looked up and
stood up a cross to the far post, where Darren came in and rose above an
opponent to put his header past the keeper. The relief was
palpable after his previous netting had been ruled out.
It kicked Tottenham into action and Bent
set up Bale, whose shot was arrowing into the far corner before Pawelek
pushed it out and a defender got to the loose ball before Campbell.
A well-timed tackle by Woodgate and a block by Bale stopped Wisla
threatening Gomes' goal, with a late effort from Zienczuk going over the
A win is a win, but the ferocious
atmosphere Tottenham might find themselves entering in Krakow could
unsettle them in their current fragile state. A one goal lead is
handy, but two might have made it a more comfortable trip. You
feel an early goal either way in two weeks time might settle the end
BENNY THE BALL