With an injury and absentee hit squad, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp may
have gone into the game with less than his usual enthusiasm, but a
second half fight back recovered a 0-2 situation to gain the draw that
Tottenham needed to progress to the UEFA Cup round of 32.
Surreally enough, as the game went on and
the result came in from the NEC Nijmegen game, one more goal for
Tottenham would have left Spurs top of the group and facing a third
place team from another group in the next stage of the competition.
As it was we now have to play a drop out from the Champions League
With Spartak not having played for a few
weeks, It was hoped that Spurs would get a quick start to catch the
Russians on the hop. While Tottenham moved the ball around well,
they failed top produce a killer pass in the last third of the pitch,
with crosses not finding a Tottenham head on most occasions.
Spartak were starting to get into the game and Mayolan put a dangerous
ball into the area along the six yard line, but Gomes came out to grab
the ball before if got through to a red shirted player and then caught
Dzuba's shot from inside the area, which was directed straight at him.
While the ball was being passed well,
Spartak were starting to close Spurs down and when Bale hit a pass back
to Gilberto, the Brazilian left it for his compatriot in goal, even
though Gomes was further away from the ball than him. With the two
caught in no-man's land, Dzuba nipped in to prod the ball through the
keeper's legs to give Moscow the lead in the 23rd minute. This
gave the visitors some confidence to push forward, with manager Michael
Laudrup having inspired his side to victory at White Hart Lane last
season, when he was coach of Getafe.
After the restart, Spartak tested Gomes
with a 20-yarder from Rizhkov, forcing Gomes to tip it wide and then had
to save from a Fathi volley. Spurs at last caused some
consternation in the Russian penalty area when O'Hara played a low ball
across the face of goal, with no white shirt there to turn it in.
Spurs went closer in the 31st minute, as Fraizer Campbell did well to
retrieve possession from a seemingly lost position and draw the ball
back for Tom Huddlestone to drive a shot at goal that Pletikosa fisted
out double-handed, but looked less than secure. However, a couple
of minutes later, a moment of skill by lanky striker Dzuba left Zokora
standing as the ball was nicked around him, with Tottenham holding a
defensive line trying to play offside. The forward ran past the
Spurs defence and Gomes came out as far as he could, but Dzuba slid the
ball past the keeper to make it 2-0. It had suddenly become a
position that Spurs did not want to find themselves in.
With the ball moving upfield from the
kick off, Tottenham had a good opening, when Bale put in a deep cross to
Bentley at the far post, but he was caught in two minds about whether to
get a header on goal or to head it across goal for a colleague.
This left it floating and being picked out of the air by the Spartak
keeper. Another header, this time by Dawson from Bentley'#s right
wing free-kick, beat Pletikosa, but also the bar, as it flew over the
With Gilberto looking like he did not
want the ball and not being the fans favourite after the first Spartak
goal, Harry brought on Lennon in his place, with Bentley swapping to the
left, which gave Tottenham a more potent attacking force on the right
wing. It also allowed space for others, as the Russians doubled up
on the speedy winger. O'Hara made the most of it and put in a far
post cross that Campbell got on the end of and his header was well
beaten out at full length by Pletikosa in the 50th minute. The two
linked up again three minutes later, when O'Hara almost set up the on
loan striker, who took the pass, but slipped as he was about to shoot
and the effort went wide. Bentley almost found Dawson at the near
post, but the ball flashed past him and across goal, then Huddlestone
hit two long range shots too high. It looked like Spurs were
pushing for a goal to get back in the game, but Zokora's clearance
dropped kindly for Dzuba, who hit a shot straight at Gomes thankfully.
The Peter Crouch look-a-like almost grabbed another when he had a free
header, but put it well wide.
It was the stroke of luck Spurs needed,
as they broke on the right wing, where Aaron Lennon beat his man and got
tight to the dead ball line and pulled a low cross into the near post,
where Luka Modric made the sort of run the midfielders need to do with
only one man up front. The Croatian tucked away the volley to pull
the score back to 1-2.
The first goal for the club from the
midfielder sparked Tottenham into some decent attacking play at last.
And the equaliser came six minutes later. Bentley received the
ball from Gareth Bale, who took the return and put in a pacy cross that
Tom Huddlestone met at the near post to thump a header past the goalie
to level the score to 2-2. Tom had one of those games, where he
does all that is expected of him and hopefully he will be able to take
this form into the Premier League and dominate games.
Michael Dawson stayed up front following
a set-piece and when Lennon's cross was won by the captain's head, he
was unlucky to see his effort flick off a defender and go just wide, as
Pletikosa went the other way. The keeper was also in action as he
managed to awkwardly smuggle the ball wide for a corner as Bentley
stepped inside his opponent into the box and struck as shot in low to
the near post.
Bale had had an uncertain first half,
with his touch lacking, but now he had a taste for getting forward and
found new energy. Another low ball into the near post from the
left saw Fraizer Campbell slide in with Fathi, but the Spurs man got
there first and his effort hit Pletikosa and was kept out. There
was still one last opportunity, when O'Hara hit a hopeful 30-yarder
straight at the keeper, who took it comfortably.
I am not sure if Spartak knew of their
fate with the score tied, but they failed to make much progress towards
the Spurs goal after the equaliser. As it was, a good second half
performance proved enough to go through to the knock-out stage of the
UEFA Cup, but with a tie against a Champions League side, the team will
need to be more on guard than they were in the first half. Our
cup-tied players may be available by the time the next round comes
around, with some more players available if we have made further
improvement in our league position. It is not inconceivable that
we could go further in the competition, if the draw is kind to us and if
Harry decides it is a necessary evil ... being one of the ways we might
get European football next season.