|OPPONENTS||Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)|
|COMPETITION||Europa League Round of 32 First Leg|
|DATE||Thursday 20th February 2014|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
From the first leg, Spurs will be aware of the speed of the two
Dnipro strikers Yonoplyanka and Matheus, so will need to have their
wits about them to try and stop them scoring. Tottenham were a
little lucky to come away with only a one goal defeat, with some
late goalmouth action seeing Hugo Lloris survive.
The Ukraine side's defence was reasonably sound, but there was not enough penetration beyond their back four in the first leg to truly test them sufficiently, so we will have to hope that Aaron Lennon is on top form to get past his marker and that Sherwood goes with Adebayor and Soldado up front to give Dnipro worries rather than us play to their strengths. The keeper Boyko didn't look that convincing in the game out there, so shots on target, which has not been our strength in the last couple of games, could be telling in the final outcome.
Our midfield will have to work hard to find space, as the visitors will probably try to tie up that section of the field and look to hit on the break. The need to maintain our composure and our shape to make sure we don't let one in.
I can see Dnipro scoring,
but I think that with the crowd behind the side, Spurs can go on to
edge the aggregate score-line to progress.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 3 Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Sandro and Kyle Walker could be back int he starting line-up, with Etienne Capoue and Danny Rose both missing with knee injuries picked up at Norwich City on Sunday. Erik Lamela and Vlad Chiriches (both back) are still out.
|DNIPRO DNIPROPETROVSK TEAM NEWS :|
Tottenham Hotspur 3 (0) Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk
(Tottenham win 3-2 on aggregate)
Europa League Round of 32 Second Leg
Thursday 27th February 2014 Kick off 20:00
White Hart Lane
Sandro (foul on Rotan) 45
Vertonghen (foul on Matheus) 59
Dawson (foul on Guliano) 90 + 3
Rotan (foul on Dembele) 89
Kulakov (foul on Kane) 90+5
|Crowd : 34,815||Weather : Chilly|
|Referee : Anthony Gautier (France)||Assistant Referees : Michael Annonier; Philippe Jeanne (France)|
|Fourth Official : Guillaume Debart (France)||Additional Assistants : Benoit Bastien; Benoit Millot (France)|
|- kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.|
|Game time : - 90 + 6 minutes.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk :||kit|
|Manager : Tim Sherwood||Manager : Juande Ramos|
|Sponsor : Hewlett Packard||Shirt sponsor : Biona|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Nike|
After a stodgy first half, in which Dnipro protected their one goal lead from the first leg, the second half burst into life with controversy and goals, ending with Tottenham going through 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate to meet Benfica in the Round of 16.
With two 0-1 defeats behind us, Tim Sherwood decided to play a more straight forward 4-4-2 formation, taking the game to Dnipro, who had manager Juande Ramos returning to White Hart Lane for the first time since his departure from Spurs. Being aware of the breaking capabilities of the Ukraine side, with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose not ready to return, he had Naughton and Fryers adding some pace at full back, with Sandro sitting in the middle of midfield as the protector. Selecting Adebayor and Soldado up front showed faith in the Togo striker, who has had a knee injury and in the Spanish forward, who has not enjoyed the best of luck in front of goal this season for Tottenham. Bringing Christian Eriksen in for Paulinho was probably based on the creativeness of the Dane over the ability to get into the box of the Brazilian.
Entering the ground, the first thing that struck me was how few people there were. Twenty minutes to kick off and the ground could only have been about one eighth full. Then I noticed for the first time this season, the Europa League branding was around the stadium and the sponsors of the competition had been given prominence, as the HP adverts were covered over. There was still a lack of buzz about the ground when the match kicked off, with the ground having filled up considerably.
Tottenham started the game well, but found it difficult to break through the Dnipro midfield and defence, which barred their way with blue shirts. The introduction of Sandro saw him breaking up moves buy the opposition, but his passing was a bit off to start with. Dnipro tried their quick breaks out of defence, with Konoplyanka feeding Matheus often. One one occasions he broke into the Spurs box and reached the penalty area, with Vertonghen alongside him, in a greats coring position, with just Lloris to beat. Unfortunately for his team, he seemed more intent on getting his team a penalty and getting Jan sent off. The Brazilian took off almost vertical and totally forgot about the ball. The referee didn't buy his dive and although he tried time and time again, the referee did fail to sanction him for his actions.
Tottenham's first chance came from a right wing cross, which was headed down into the path of Eriksen by Adebayor, but the Dane's shot was deflected away from goal as it looked as if it might fly inside the keeper's left hand post. Some of our moves around the Dnipro penalty area looked a little too intricate, as we tried to walk the ball through their defence, rather than test the frankly shaky looking keeper Boyko. When he was tested, he did come up with a decent stop. When Vertonghen was bundled over by Zozulya in the 26th minute, Eriksen's free-kick dipped over the wall and forced Boyko to tip the ball around his post with a low dive to his right.
This was just part of the running feud that Zozulya had with Vertonghen. The striker had spent most of the first leg in the same way he approached the second, running into players after they had headed the ball away, going late into tackles and basically playing for a reaction. He had already play-acted in making out that Jan had elbowed him in the face as they both went for a ball. But more of this vendetta later !
A little after Eriksen's shot, Dnipro broke forward, getting defender Strinic in and he was only denied by a fine tackle from Kyle Naughton, causing the player to rant at the lineman as he tracked back into position, wanting a penalty. But then they all wanted a penalty, every time they crossed the 18 yard line. When Matheus did manage to stand on two feet, he had a shot from fully 30 yards and it went high and wide, while Sandro did the same at the other end and while it did go over, it dipped noticeably, just going over by a couple of feet.
With a minute of added time shown by the fourth official, which was a lot less than the Dnipro keeper alone had wasted with goal-kicks, the first half petered out with no great excitement, leaving a lot for Tim Sherwood to do at half-time and for Spurs to do in the second half.
Half time saw Jermain Defoe come out onto the pitch for the last time as a Spurs player, before he jets off to start a new career with Toronto FC. His emotional goodbye was prompted by a great ovation from the crowd, along with his favourite three goals for the club, with the last being one against West Ham. "Which one ?" he asked, "I scored so many !" The Europa League matches go give fans who do not otherwise get the opportunity to come to the ground to abuse our players to come along. Amongst other comments, I heard Naughton being informed that he got "nutmegged you twat", learned Nabil Bentaleb is the new Jermaine Jenas and that Defoe should come on (serious comment, not just a wish if he had been fit and selected on the bench).
When the second half started, Spurs were shocked by a goal that came at about the same time as Robert Snodgrass' on Sunday. A cheap free-kick was won in a central position about 25 yards out and Dnipro captain Rotan played it in, finding the head of Zozulya, who powered it past Lloris to shock the Tottenham crowd. He had escaped the attention of his marker Vertonghen and suddenly the visitors were 2-0 ahead. It was especially galling that the scorer had been a physical pain in the side of a lot of Tottenham players. Some of the crowd might have been thinking that this might be the end of our Europa League run for this season.
But the crowd suddenly picked up their voice and got behind the team. Within five minutes, an Eriksen corner from our right wing was flicked on by Ade and was met on the stretch by Dembele, who volleyed the ball into the ground and it bounced up and over the keeper, but came down on the top of the net rather than in it. Within a minute, Roberto Soldado had the ball in the net, finishing first time past a stunned keeper from Eriksen's pass, but he had just strayed past the last defender and the lineman's flag denied him the goal.
The crowd were awarded a free kick on the left corner of the box, when Kankava committed one of many fouls, which were to cost his team. Christian swung the ball in as he had done earlier with a more central effort, but this time, despite spending a lot of time arranging a wall to cover that side of the goal, Boyko could only get a hand to the ball and help it in low at the foot of his right hand post to make the score 1-1 after 56 minutes.
Two minutes later, Spurs were counting their lucky stars, as Vertonghen was booked for a foul in the left back position on Matheus (although it was most likely a dive, if the previous 55 minutes had been anything to go by). The ball was expected to be swung in, but instead it was played square by Rotan to Konoplyanka, 20 yards out and his shot coming in from the left side of the D curled around a defender and beat Lloris' dive, but bounced away off the post and Fedetskiy skied the rebound over the bar.
Just after the hour, Kavanka brought down Townsend, as he had so many white shirted players before on the night. Andros Townsend shaped to take the kick, but before he could, Jan Vertonghen was on the floor, with Dnipro players circling around him, while his Tottenham team-mates tried to protect him. The referee came over, but he could not have seen the incident, so must have been told by the assistant behind the goal that Zozulya had laid his head on the Belgian defender. Out came the red card and down came the red mist. Zozulya was desperate to get at Vertonghen, as he had been all game, but Adebayor, Fryers and Naughton had to restrain him, as he failed to leave the pitch. The Ukrainian team were complaining that Jan was play-acting, but that was highly hypocritical, when their players had been knocked over by people farting in the crowd. Dnipro captain Rotan was having a running row with Dawson and when it all settled down, the Spurs captain headed wide from Eriksen's ball into the area. Rotan had pursued Dawson as the teams went back into position after the free-kick and his team appeared engrossed in the arguments rather than the football.
The atmosphere was not coming to the boil. Especially when Spurs were level just a minute later. A throw in on our left wing was taken by Christian Eriksen and when Dembele held off three men to lay the ball back to him on the left, his low ball into the area was met at the near post by Emmanuel Adebayor's go-go Gadget leg, which knocked the ball into the net, with Roberto poised behind him and Andros beyond the far post in case the ball went that far. It was like Pav's goal against Inter Milan in the Champions League a few years back and it really set the ground jumping with just under a half an hour left.
It didn't take that long to nudge Tottenham into the lead. More lack of concentration and Zeki Fryers' ball in from the left on halfway to Adebayor on the edge of the box, saw the Togo striker take the ball on his chest and before it hit the floor, he tucked it past the keeper with the outside of his right foot to send the team and the fans into raptures. If you had said that we would be 3-1 up after losing that goal just after the break, most would have had you committed, but the players stepped up to the line and did what was required to turn the match around. Sherwood was running up the line pumping his fists and the Dnipro heads dropped further than when Zozulya had been dismissed.
However, they kept going and almost forced their way back into the match. Matheus was now staying on his feet and got behind the defence on our left to pull a low ball back but it went behind the striker waiting for it, then Strinic crossed from the left to find Seleznyov on the far post, but his shot was a tight angle and he did well to hit the target, but Lloris kept it out at his near post. In between Soldado went close twice, with Rotan blocking a shot and then his volley went into the ground and bounced over the bar. That is the difference between him and Adebayor at the moment. Everything is going in for Ade, with a similar shot beating Krul at St' James Park, while Bobby is just not getting the good fortune he needs to kick start a scoring run.
With three minutes left, the ball was played to Yehven Konoplyanka who was 25 yards from goal and centrally placed, so he hit a drive that went low to Hugo's right and he dived to push the ball wide of the goal. Whether this turned out to be a sighter for the Ukraine international or our goalkeeper is a moot point, but in added time, a free-kick from a similar distance brought a similar save and kept the score at 3-1.
It proved enough at the end, with Kane running down time and the whistle greeted with glee by both players and supporters. For all the trials and tribulations Spurs put us through, moments like this are worth it. Not much of a first half, but the second was full of action and incident.
If the games against Benfica are half as good, they should be gripping ties for a place in the last eight.
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