OPPONENTS Benfica (Portugal)
COMPETITION Europa League Round of 16 First Leg
DATE Thursday 13th March 2014
VENUE White Hart Lane






Benfica are leading the Portuguese league by some  seven points clear of Sporting Lisbon coming into the first leg of the Round of 16 at White Hart Lane.  They have a good European record having reached the final of this competition last season before losing to Atletico Madrid.

Having sold the league's player of the year - Nemaja Matic - to Chelsea, they are somewhat weaker, but they have produced, or at least developed, a number of players that other clubs cast envious eyes at.  Striker Oscar Cardoza, midfielder and central defenders Ezequiel Garay and Luisao, who have been instrumental in their fine defensive record.  Keeper Jan Oblak, from Slovenia, has been impressive and developed a good understanding with his defenders.  Matic's replacement from Serbia, Ljubomir Fejsa, is a tough tackling midfielder, who shores up any holes that appear there, but he is a doubt with a muscle injury and therefore, he might be replaced by Ruben Amorim, with Enzo  Perez sitting alongside and covering a lot of ground between the boxes.

Benfica play with two wingers, Serb Lazar Markovic and Nicolas Gaitan.  Markovic is very skilful on the ball and has pace, while Gaitan can add to the goal threat by cutting in from wide positions.  This also make space for his full-back to get beyond him on the outside.  Gaitan has long been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are said to be interested in Markovic.  Eduardo Salvio is another winger that the Portuguese club have on their books and he might feature to give one of the regulars a rest.

Cardoza has been out injured and is still feeling his way back into the side, so his participation may be in doubt, with the two Rodrigos more probable starters, with Rodrigo Lima playing off the one just called Rodrigo (the Spanish one).  Jardel, the Brazilian striker is still on their books and he had a great scoring record in the 1990s.

Tottenham will need to perform to a much higher standard than they did against Chelsea at the weekend and for an hour than they did against Dnipro in the previous round.  Scoring three times against Benfica may be considerably more tricky and keeping a clean sheet would be a good result, but Spurs need to make the most of home advantage, to take something to the Stadium de Luz to defend.  It may be a throw back to 1962 with the result at the end of this first leg, but hopefully not after the aggregate score is resolved.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2        Benfica    1
Spurs expect Mousa Dembele, Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen to be fit to play against Benfica, but Michael Dawson (hamstring) joins Vlad Chiriches (back), Erik Lamela (back) and Etienne Capoue (ankle) on the injured list. 

ITV 1- 19:45 (live)

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (0)                                                                        Benfica  3 ()
Europa League Round of 16 First Leg
Thursday 13th March 2014                                                                                                                             Kick off 20:05
White Hart Lane
Eriksen  64 Rodrigo  29
Luisao  58
Luisao  83
Sandro (foul on Markovic)  9 
Vertonghen (foul on Gaitan)  81


Silvio (foul on Kane)  62
Amorim (foul on Naughton)  81   


Crowd :   34,283 Weather :  Mild, dry
Referee :  Jonas Eriksson (SWE) Assistant Referees :  Mathias Klasenius; Daniel Wärnmark (SWE)
Fourth Official :  Magnus Sjöblom (SWE) Additional Assistants : Stefan Johannesson; Markus Strömbergsson (SWE)
Benfica kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Game time : -  90+4 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Benfica : kit
25  Hugo LLORIS

  2  Kyle WALKER (  3  Danny ROSE )
  4  Younes KABOUL (c)
  5  Jan VERTONGHEN     

  7  Aaron LENNON
30  SANDRO       (42  Nabil BENTALEB 82)
23  Christian ERIKSEN 

37  Harry KANE  (  9  Roberto SOLDADO 75)

10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL
21  Nacer CHADLI
17  Andros TOWNSEND

  41  Jan OBLAK

28  SILVIO     
24  Ezequiel GARAY
  4  LUISAO (c)   
  6  Ruben AMORIM     

50  Lazar MARKOVIC
  5  Ljubomir FEJSA
  8  Miralem SULEJMANI  (35  Enzo PEREZ 66)
16  Guilherme SIQUEIRA

19  RODRIGO    (11  LIMA 87)
  7  Oscar CARDOZA  (20  Nicolas GAITAN 65)

Unused subs:
  1  Artur MORAES

10  Filip DJURICIC
34  Andre ALMEIDA

Manager :  Tim Sherwood Manager :  Jorge Jesus
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  -  ||| = O
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

There  was to be no revenge for Tottenham, as Benfica gave them a technical lesson in how to play European football and the thought of Champions League football, if these were drop outs from that competition, however tempting, looks a frightening proposition on this form.

Benfica's 3-1 win might have ended Tottenham's season in Europe, but it must not affect the league form for the remaining three months.  However, injuries and doubts about the way the team are playing and defending makes each of the last nine fixtures games in which the team need to show more than the desire that so pleased Tim Sherwood.  If he is pleased with the way the team played tonight (Christian Eriksen excepted), then I fear that the club might finish outside of even the Europa League reckoning ... although without the burden of playing 12 matches to get knocked out at this stage, our League form might be helped by the reduced workload.

Tottenham failed to produce anything more than a couple of good moves and the failure as a team and even as individuals is worrying at this time of then season when we always happen to hit a low point.  With Sherwood preferring Kane to Soldado, but then playing him in a role in the hole behind Adebayor, you felt that this might be a long night.  Kane's two goals against West Brom's Under-21s this week perhaps sparked something in Sherwood's mind, but the difference in the level of play would have been well noted after Benfica had played us off the park.

The free-moving, quick passing of the red shirted Portuguese side opened Tottenham up too often.  With eight minutes gone, our corner was cleared and suddenly Markovic was on the halfway line breaking away from three Spurs players.  Sandro's touch brought him down before he could get nearer to goal.  A yellow card that early on meant that the Beast had to cage his inner rage.  However, it was the Brazilian who had Tottenham's first shot, hitting a scuffed effort from 20 yards out.  Around the 20 minute mark, Spurs won a few corners, but Eriksen failed to clear the first man with them, although a couple did find the middle of the penalty area, but there was not a Spurs man on hand to meet them. 

Christian was effective in his play and almost got on the end of a Kaboul header forward, when the keeper slipped and just about regained his ground to hold the ball as the Dane looked to nip in.  As it was, the final ball was missing from Tottenham's game, but not, it seemed, from Benfica's.  As Tottenham tried to move the ball out of defence, Amorim picked it off, played a simple ball between Naughton and Vertonghen and released Rodrigo, who got to the edge of the box and bent a shot past Lloris' dive to his right and the ball nestle in the back of the net, with some Spurs players looking beaten already.

The speed of Markovic on the break was something Tottenham had to be aware of and were  guilty of not replicating, with the ball not finding Lennon often enough and the winger not getting into dangerous crossing positions enough.  Just before the break, only an outstretched leg from Vertonghen stopped Cardoza finding Markovic to his right and he would have been through on Lloris.

At half-time, Cliff Jones tried as hard as he could to generate some of the spirit of 1962, but I think a lot of fans around the ground had an inkling what was to come.  All bar those who don't come very often, who referred to their own players as "Sherwood's Love Child" and "Bentypleb" for our young midfielder, while our striker from Spain became "Nogoaldo".  Nothing the team did was good enough for such "fans" and their continual abuse of the Spurs players made it hard for me to recall I was among the home "supporters".  There are lots of things wrong with football these days and you would have thought that occasional fans would take the opportunity to get behind their team, sing the songs they hear on TV and radio and to help back them to play well.  It seems not.

Three minutes after the break, we all nearly had something to shout about.  When Eriksen slipped a fine pass through to Adebayor on the edge of the box, his quickly taken shot flew well wide of the goal as he shanked it left.  "Defoe would have scored that", came a shout from behind me.  Err, Defoe doesn't play for Spurs anymore.  And I am sure that on that same basis, would Jermain have got some of the goals Ade has knocked in recently ?  I think Greavsie would have stuck it away though.

Lennon jinked infield from the right to hit  low shot that went straight to Oblak, before Harry Kane, playing deep in his own half had the ball taken off him by Amorim and striking a good shot from 25 yards out, Hugo took off to tip it over the bar.  However, the Frenchman had no chance when the corner came in and Luisao won a free header at the near post and directed to down and across the keeper.  0-2 down and only 58 minutes gone.  Two away goals at that.

As Kane was getting stick from a lot of people in my section of the ground, he moved forward with the ball and was unceremoniously upended on the edge of the box.  Eriksen and Walker lined up to take it and it looked more likely that Walker would blast it rather than Eriksen try to bend it in, as it was a bit too close and the Benfica wall were making massive strides towards the ball despite the referee originally pushing them back.  But bit was Erisken that took and how well he did.  Curling the ball out of the keeper's reach to his right, Christian had also managed to get the ball up and down over the ever-encroaching wall.  At 1-2, there was glimmer of hope and that is what we cling to too often.

Apart form a couple of cleared crosses, the play was largely controlled by Benfica.  Passing the ball around comfortably, they almost got a third on 74 minutes, when Vertonghen left a through ball, Lloris had come for it, but slipped and it went past him.  It all went slow-motion for a moment, as the keeper saw Rodrigo racing in and managed to get a hand to it to knock it out for a corner from about five yards inside his area.  It wasn't this one, but one ten minutes later that saw the ground clear even more rapidly.  It was the Eagles' captain Luisao again, this time latching onto the ball when Lloris dived low to push a Garay header away to his left, but the tall defender was there to smash the ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle and make it 3-1.  Unfortunately, the score-line did not tell lies about the way the game had gone.

We were grateful to Lloris for another good save to stop the second leg being even more than a formality than it might already be, as he saved well as he stood up to Sequeira, who had been played in by Gaitan.  The game petered out and the colour and noise came from a small section in the Park Lane rather than the majority of the ground, as

the visiting fans concentrated on waving their flags and singing their songs and chants rather than the smoke bombs and bangers which had perforated the game, with a stink of sulphur hiding the stink that the majority of the Spurs side were creating.  Walker did OK and so did Naughton, but aside form them and Eriksen, the team put in a poor performance.  I hope they don't think a repeat on Sunday will be met with such insouciance by those left in the stadium.

Sherwood became more embroiled in battling with Jesus George rather than calling upon the deity to help us out.  That might have been the only thing to save us, as Lloris didn't have much hope with any of the goals and the lack of creativity meant that their back four were having an unduly easy tie of it.

Hard thought it might be to hear it and accept it, Benfica were  a lot better than us.

Steve Watkins


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What you thought
Benny The Ball The only thing in the whole evening that cheered me up was before the game.  As I sat outside the Northumberland Park Spurs Store, a driver sat in traffic was effing and jeffing about Tottenham, as his journey was being delayed.  Hopefully he was a Gooner.
- -.



Other first leg scores in this round :
AZ Alkmaar (HOL) 1 Anji Makhachkala (RUS) 0 Thursday
Ludogorets (BUL) 0 Valencia (SPA) 3 Thursday
FC Porto (POR) 1 SS Napoli (ITA) 0 Thursday
Olympique Lyonnais (FRA) 4 Vitoria Plzen (CZE) 1 Thursday
Seville (SPA) 0 Real Betis (SPA) 2 Thursday
FC Basel (SWI) 0 Red Bull Salzburg (AUS) 0 Thursday
Juventus (ITA) 1 Fiorentina (ITA) 1 Thursday


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