Tottenham Hotspur  3 (1)                                                                       Sporting Lisbon  5 (2)
After extra time - score at 90 mins :  3-3

NextGen quarter final
Wednesday 20th March 2013                                                                                                             Kick off 19:00
Brisbane Road (Leyton Orient FC)
Odowa 9
Dombaxe (p)  80
Michael-Percil  90+5
Coelho  6
Coelho  16
Semedo (p) 63
Guedes  96
Fokobo 102
Ball (foul) 50
Dombaxe (dissent)  100


Coelho (foul) 43
Ie (handball) 120+5   

Pedro Luz - Sporting manager (dissent)  112

Crowd :  685 Weather :  Bitterly cold, drizzling
Referee :  Michael Bull Assistant Referees :  Andrew Aylott, Lloyd Wood
Fourth Official :  John Busby -
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Access Road end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit ?? : kit
  1  Lawrence VIGOROUX

  2  Jack BARTHRAM
  6  Dominic BALL      
  5  Milos VELJKOVIC
  3  Kevin STEWART (c) (17  Darren McQUEEN 86)

  4  Laste DOMBEAXE      
10  Ruben LAMEIRAS (14  Filip LESNIAK 64)
  8  Nabil BENTALEB (15  Joshua ONOMAH 86)
11  Kenneth McEVOY (16  Roman MICHAEL-PERCIL 69)

  7  Nathan ODUWA (18  Daniel AKINDAYINI 69)

Unused subs:
12  Aaron McENEFF

    1  Mickael MEIRA

  2  Mauro RIQUICHO
  3  Ruben SEMEDO
  5  Michael PINTO
  4  Tobias PIGUEOREDO (c)

  8  Joao PALHINHA  (17  Daniel PODENCE 86)
  6  Atud FOKOBO
10  Farley ROSA  (14  Luka STOJANOVIC 61)

11  Iuri MEDEIROS  (15  Edlino IE 86)
  7  Ricardo ESGAIO

  9  Alberto COELHO  (18  Alexandre GUEDES 51)

Unused subs: 
12  Guilherme OLIVEIRA
13  Wilson MANAFA
16  Gelsom MARTINS

Manager :  John McDermott Manager :  Pedro Luz
Sponsor :   Aurasma Shirt sponsor :  Met Life
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

On a bitterly cold night in Leyton, Tottenham's run in the Next Gen European glamour competition came to a sticky end on a sticky pitch in the unglamorous East End, as Sporting Lisbon came out winners after extra time.

Walking up to the stadium, the only signal that there might have been a game on were the floodlights shining above the ground, but they might easily have been lighting the five-a-side games going on at the rear of the ground.  It also didn't help when the Ticket Office was shut and only a walk around the ground revealed a couple of turnstiles open, with a queue of Sporting fans waiting to pay their 5.  The Portuguese had turned out in force and in a crowd of approx. 685 (according to the official site), the green and white clad fans with their banners and flags must have number about 100.  With such a meagre crowd, you wonder how the match broke even, as even estimating a 5 a head calculation only produces a figure of 3,425 and there were a considerable amount of kids, who only paid 1 to get in.  With the floodlights to run and St. John's Ambulance men, stewards, catering staff and match-day staff, you can only surmise that this must be a lucrative tournament to take part in.

Spurs had progressed from the group as the worst side to make the quarter-finals.  While they had beaten Barcelona, draws in other games and a last match defeat against Anderlecht had seen them qualify as one of the best third placed teams ... but only just.  In the previous round, while Sporting were knocking Liverpool out 4-0, Spurs saw off tournament favourites Paris St. Germain on penalties after drawing 1-1 at the French club's training ground.  The Sporting fans appeared to be taking this very seriously, with chanting and having their photos taken in the none too salubrious surroundings of E10.  As for the Spurs fans, it was a mix of kids wanting to see any Spurs team take the field and the die-hards who follow over land and sea.  I'm not sure how many neutrals were there, although one kid had a Chelsea hat on.

The teams came out minus a European anthem and did the handshake thing before getting ready for kick off.  And hardly had the game got going when Sporting went ahead.  Just six minutes gone and a ball into Coelho, their big centre forward, saw him bring it down well and with a deft touch, lobbed it over Lawrence Vigouroux and into the net to make it 1-0.  But it didn't stay that way for too long.  Spurs on the ball on the right wing and it was played out to Jack Barthram, over-lapping from full back.  The ball went just behind Kenneth McEvoy (or "Baby Bale" as he was christened by someone near me ... no pressure there then !!) and fell to Nathan Oduwa, who smashed it left footed first time from eight yards out and it flew past a static Sporting keeper to level the scores.

The play was not fluent and part of that was due to the pitch, which appeared bobbly across the hole of the playing surface and in front of the main stand where the fans were, there was a stretch of beach - some 25 yards long on the near touchline - where a huge amount of sand had been dumped to make it more solid than a boggy mess, I imagine.  Orient used to have the best groundsman in the business a few years back, with no games called off there, even in the most extreme conditions.  Now, it looked like a non-league and I can see why Barry Hearn may be so keen to get into the Olympic Stadium pitch.  Spurs got stuck playing in this area and some of their short passing proved to be just that ... too short, selling players and allowing Sporting to take them out of the game with an interception.  On the other side of the coin, Sporting were making hay and giving captain Kevin Stewart a tough ride, with winger Esgaio taking him on regularly.  When Stewart failed to get close to him in the 16th minute, his right wing cross made it's way to the centre of the goal and Coelho came in, stretching out a leg to poke a volley past the Spurs keeper and regaining the lead for the visiting team.

The game was really open, with the Spurs defence more open than Sporting's.  The Portuguese side were bigger and more physical in comparison to Spurs.  More often than not in a clean way, just easing our forwards off the ball with their weight and the Spurs men looked a little light-weight in comparison.  Coulthirst was perhaps the exception, with his low centre of gravity making him hard to knock off the ball, but sometimes, he held onto the ball a bit too long and should have released it to a team-mate before he was robbed of it.  Oduwa did manage to jink around a defender and get to the by-line, but having done the hard work, he put his cross straight out of play. 

Spurs could easily have turned around more goals behind, as a straightforward through ball in the 27th minute saw Vigouroux rush out of goal, but the ball was never going to reach the penalty area, so he had to head it, but failed to get much on it and it fell kindly to Medeiros, who dinked the ball towards the empty goal, but got it off target.  Seven minutes later, Vigouroux had another rash moment, when he threw the ball out looking to start an attack, but only found it going as far as Rosa, who was standing right in front of him.  The Sporting man laid it on for Coelho, who chipped goal-wards, but again, the Spurs keeper had luck on his side as it drifted wide.

Spurs did put together one good passing move on the left, working through the sand for Stewart to feed Nabil Bentaleb, who sent Couthirst through, but the striker had strayed offside.  Twice McEvoy got away on the left and cut into the box, but rather than pull the ball across the face of goal, he tried - unsuccessfully to beat the keeper at his near post and only succeeded in hitting him in the chest both times.  The half ended with Coelho getting a yellow card for a studs up late challenge on Barthram as he kicked through the ball.

At half-time, the cold seemed to make itself felt with venom.  The lack of bodies around to shield you from the cold and the lack of body heat from the spread out crowd meant that there was little to warm you.  And that extended to what was going on in the match.  Spurs had been warming up their back four before the game, by getting them to simulate dealing with a long ball by retreating as a four and then heading or kicking away.  Strangely, once the game started, they appeared to be unaware of what to do when balls came in like that.  Vigouroux lost some of his confidence from a dodgy first half and Stewart, who had always looked solid when I had seen him before, looked totally flustered.   It would need a big re-organisation to make the team less difficult to by-pass if they were to get anything out of the match.  But it had been difficult for them.  Sporting had been pressing from the kick off and Spurs had little time on the ball to play, so they needed a bit more movement to make options when in possession.

When the second half started, it wasn't long before Coelho made way and Guedes took his place.  It was a like for like swap with the 18 being a tall, strong forward like the young man he replaced, but not as much as a threat on goal.  Ball was booked for a late tackle and Vigouroux was lucky not to get that (or worse) nearly twenty minutes into the second half, when he mis-judged the flight of a through ball and ended up dragging down Rosa in the box, as he went past him.  Semedo (looking like he was wearing a J on his back, such was the difficulty in reading black numbers against the green hoops of their shirts) stepped up to confidently sweep the ball past the keeper from the spot to give Sporting a 3-1 lead.

Spurs had struggled and not looked like getting one goal back.  Now they required two, it looked as though it may be beyond them.  However, the introduction of midfielder Filip Lesniak for Lameiras seemed to make a difference.  He immediately started moving the ball quickly, with short sharp passes that got Spurs on the move and found ways around the Sporting players.  And with a couple of more substitutions, replacing the injured Oduwa and the ineffectual Bentaleb, Spur pushed forward with more purpose.  They switched to three at the back, which left them a little exposed and Vigouorux made amends a little with a good stop as Guedes tried to go around him and the keeper grabbed the ball to stop his progress.

With twenty minutes left, McEvoy got away down the right wing and put in a near post cross that Coulthirst did well to get across his marker and meet with his head, but the effort went wide of the goal.  Just after half an hour of the second period, Shaq did well to make a yard for himself on the edge of the area and his shot was straight into the keeper's body.  But three minutes later, he latched onto a ball slipped into the left side of the box,   taking a touch before he was hauled down by Pigueiredo and the referee pointed to the spot.  Laste Dombaxe grabbed the ball and with the slowest run-up to a penalty ever, he coolly stroked the ball to his right as the keeper went the other way to reduce the arrears.

There was now an urgency to Tottenham's play and with Sporting dropping deeper and deeper as they tired, the play was more or less one way.  With five minutes, Barthram, who had switched to right back cracked in a shot that flew a foot off the floor all the way from 25 yards and the Sporting keeper just managed to grab it at the second attempt before Coulthirst got on the loose ball.  With time seemingly running out, Sporting turned less than sporting in their approach to the game.  Play-acting, kicking the ball away, moving goal-kicks to the further side of the goal and spending an age to leave the field when substituted all frustrated the Spurs players, but the ref had cottoned onto it and added a considerable amount of added time.  With a last throw of the dice, Barthram popped up on the left and out in a hanging cross that Meira came for and looked favourite to get.  But he collided with his own defender, dropping the ball ten yards out and Roman Michael-Percil (other brands are available) drove the ball home, racing off to be mobbed by the rest of the Spurs team in front of the main stand.  3-3 with no time to restart the game and Spurs had pushed the match into extra time.  Despite the keeper's pleading protests, the goal stood.

While it was a spirited comeback, my first thoughts were for my toes and whether they would come off with my sock when I got home.  As the temperature in the game had increased, in the stand it had dropped considerably.  Kicking off extra time, Spurs looked to have the game swinging their way, but it only took six minutes for Sporting to go back in front.  This time, Guedes turned on the edge of the box and hit a low shot towards Vigouroux's right hand post and the keeper didn't get there, allowing the ball to nestle in the back of the net. 

A Spurs attack broke down in the Sporting box and Dombaxe, by now wearing the captain's armband, was booked for dissent as the ref gave a free-kick against Spurs.  Within a couple of minutes, the game was effectively over, when a ball was cleared out of the Spurs box towards the halfway line, when Fokobo ran onto it and hit it first time from fully 45 yards.  The ball travelled quickly and went over Vigouroux's head and into the net to make it 5-3 to the Portuguese side.  It was a goal out of the blue and while it was probably half-meant, the player could not have imagined it landing where it finished up.

Spurs did make a fight of it, with a first minute chance in the second period of extra time.  Veljkovic laid the ball back into the path of Joshua Onomah, who struck the keeper in the chest without him knowing much about it.  It was all a bit like Defoe's late chance against Fulham last Sunday. 

Only twice did Sporting hit on the break, one when Barthram came from nowhere to put in a goal-saving tackle as an opponent looked to shoot on goal from inside the box and then when Vigouroux kicked the ball out, only to the Sporting sub Guedes and the keeper had to beat out a shot from the left side of the box.   A late shot from Coulthirst, after he had chested the ball down, took a deflection stranding the keeper, who could only watch as the ball crept wide of his left hand post.

The game ended in subdued fashion, with Coulthirst receiving lengthy treatment (required this time, unlike that of the Sporting players) and was able to get up and carry on, but a few minutes later, with the ball having gone dead, he dropped to the floor with nobody around him and the physios took no chances this time, taking him off on a stretcher, with what looked like it may have been concussion when a defender fell on him.  The ref took the opportunity to end the game there and Sporting went through, worthy winners on the night, even though they displayed a cynical side to their game.

If I had to compare the NextGen players to first teamers (current and past), Bentaleb looked like Taarabt, Lesniak like Tom Carroll, on this showing Vigouroux like Bobby Mimms and Barthram like a little Kyle Walker.   The ones who shone on the night were Barthram, Lesniak Veljkovic and Coulthirst, but I think the team didn't really do themselves justice and contributed to their own downfall with some lax defensive work.

There will be better days for this group, but not in the NextGen for some of them, as they will be too old next season.

Sporting went on to join Chelsea, Aston Villa and Arsenal or CSKA Moscow in the semis in Italy in ten days time.  We would have faced Villa.  Good luck to them and Spurs can look forward to a couple of tournaments on the continent to continue their progess.

Wyart Lane



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