DATE Thursday 15th September 2011
VENUE Toumba Stadium






Spurs will put out very much of a second string side, with only a few senior players, as we witness how seriously (or not) the club intend to take this competition.  I suspect that the news surrounding selections to travel to Greece indicate that this might be a test for the players who walk out in the Spurs shirt in the Toumba stadium.

Having gained a goal-less home draw with Hearts, the youngsters showed that they have the ability to do well and but for a saved penalty the result could have been better.  How Hearts rank against a side like PAOK I don't know as the Greek side are a bit of a mystery to me.

They are a mish mash of mainly Greek players, but have players from Chile, Brazil, Poland, Spain, Colombia, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Portugal and even have former Newcastle United winger Laurent Robert's younger brother !!  How they all get along with that many languages, it will be interesting to find out.

Managed by Laszlo Boloni, the former Romanian international, the side finished fourth in the Greek league and beat Norway's Valerenga and Karpaty Lviv of Ukraine to reach the group stages.

How they might play in front of their own crowd to try and get off the group games with a good start, who knows.  Tottenham's victory over Hearts at Tynecastle was built around the senior players ability to pass and move and to finish of the passing moves they made.   Jake Livermore did well and looked a useful player, but the return saw a much changed side struggle to gel.  That might come more with practice playing together, so hopefully that can be achieved quickly and that the team can bring something back from this game.

Hopefully, things will go well and the young players will not be overawed by their surroundings, leading them to a narrow win to kick off the group.

PREDICTION PAOK Salonika    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Spurs will take a young squad to Greece for this group- game, with perhaps only Younes Kaboul starting form Saturday's eleven at Wolves.   Loanee Yago Falque might start alongside Tom Carroll, getting his second appearance in the competition.  Others who make the trip will be Niko Kranjcar and Jermain Defoe to fill spots on the subs bench, as Tottenham will without the injured or rested (the choice is yours) Ledley King, Luka Modric, Scott Parker, Emmanuel Adebayor, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone, Sandro, Danny Rose, Steven Pienaar, Emmanuel Adebayor and William Gallas.
There may be a start for Heurelho Gomes in goal, with other youngsters expecting to play some part being Andros Townsend, Jake Livermore, Harry Kane and Giovani dos Santos.
Vedran Corluka might get a run out to test his fitness, while Sebastien Bassong and Roman Pavlyuchenko might start.

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PAOK Salonika  0 (0)     
Europa League
Thursday 15th September 2011                              
Venue :  -   Toumba Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur  0 (0)

Kick off 18:00
None None
Arias (foul) 38
Garcia (foul) 45
Fotakis (foul) 53



Kane (simulation)
Cudicini (foul) 31
Corluka (foul)  75
Carroll (taking a free kick too quickly)  78
dos Santos (foul)  90  


Crowd :   24,000 Weather :  -  Very warm
Referee :  Milorad Mazic (Serbia) Assistant Referees :  Milovan Ristic; Igor Radojcic (-)
Fourth Official :  -  Vlado Glodjovic Additional Assistants -  Bosko Jovanetic; Milenko Vukadinovic
PAOK kicked off the first half.
PAOK Salonika : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
91  Kresic

13  Malezas
15  Contreros (c)
16  Lino
  5  Pablo Garcia        

18  Fotakis      (21  Ivic 61)
20  Vierinha
77  Etto
85  Arias      

  9  Salpingidis
18  Athanasiadis

Unused subs: 
  1  Chalkias
27  Szaucer
  4  Balafas
11  Robert
28  Tsoukalas
14  Papazoglou

  23  Cudicini      

28  Walker
19  Bassong (c)
22  Corluka       
31  Townsend

17  dos Santos  (43  Fredericks 81)
46  Carroll        
29  Livermore
35  Falque        (58  Parrett 90+2)

37  Kane      
  9  Pavlyuchenko

Unused subs: 
  1  Gomes
59  Stewart
60  Barthram
47  Nicholson
54  Pritchard

Manager :  -  Laszlo Boloni Manager :   Harry Redknapp
Sponsor :   -  Shirt sponsor :  Investec
Kit Supplier :  -  Puma Kit Supplier :   Puma
Match report

While Harry Redknapp described this match as a nuisance, it was a bit of a shock when the team sheet for the fixture was released.  With many of the players barely known outside of the FA Premier Academy League and not born before Spurs last won this trophy, there was a decidedly youthful and pointed look to the line-up.  The Spurs manager was making his point about the matches being played three days before a big Premier League match and how the travelling, as much as the playing, would take a toll on the squad.

As it was the young side emerged with a point, having had some chances and some scares, but looking comfortable in the first half against a Greek side lacking in nous.   Setting up with a number of men behind the ball and conceding territory whenever Spurs had the ball, it was an odd tactic, which it was hard to see anything to be gained from it, although they may have been trying to hit Tottenham on the counter attack.  While Spurs played the ball around with a confidence of youth, PAOK were looking to try to contain them to efforts from distance. 

While PAOK had the first effort, it was going well wide until it hit Corluka and then was cleared and then in the 12th minute, Jake Livermore took a return pass in midfield and surged into the box, having the presence of mind to  look up and pull the ball back for Yago Falque to measure his low shot just inside the post, but skipper Contreras got back on the line to kick the ball clear.  There were few clear chances opening up and the home team fired in a shot from Vierinha that went just over Cudicini's bar, having come off the back of Charlie Corluka.

Giovani dos Santos had his first start in a long time and looked energetic, but his runs without the ball often were not picked out and when he ran with the ball, he often got picked off by the physical PAOK defenders and midfielders.  You want hi to do well, because we have seen what skill he has, but he needs to produce it in this competition otherwise, he will be bombed out.  In the 21st minute he got on the end of Andros Townsend's left wing cross and had a shot blocked before picking up the rebound and crossing to the head of Harry Kane, but the striker could not get enough power on the header from just goal-side of the penalty spot.

In the 28th minute, it looked like Spurs might take the lead, as Kane made a run down the left channel in the penalty area and went to ground under challenge from Contreras with the home team captain looking as if he got nowhere near the ball, but the Serbian ref saw things differently and gave the Spurs man a yellow card for diving, while the PAOK side got away without a penalty being awarded.  In all Spurs had five player s booked with Tom Carroll, who had a very good game, being cautioned for taking a free kick too quickly !!  I suppose Spurs will face a fine from UEFA now, with five cards picked up in one game.

Within minutes, play had switched to the other end and as Athanasiadis broke past Corluka, Cudicini raced out and his full length spread body was nowhere near the ball when the striker went down over the keeper's hands.  It looked like they were being withdrawn from the feet of the forward, but there also looked like he did catch him, although he made the most of the contact.  This time the booking went to Cudicini and the penalty went to PAOK.   As Lino stuttered up to the ball and shot past Carlo, there were bodies in the box, so his extravagant celebration was cut short by having to return to the spot to try again.  His second effort tried to be too clever by placing it in the bottom left corner of Cudicini's goal, but the Brazilian dragged it wide and Spurs escaped that scrape.

Once more, the play swung the other way and a foul on Giovani brought Pavlyuchenko an opportunity to shoot at goal from 25 yards out.  His effort five minutes before half-time dipped well, but just not enough as it rippled the roof of the net on it's way over, making the Spurs contingent get all excited that he had hit the back instead of the top of the net.  The Russian looked keen to get on the score-sheet, as he tried an ambitious volley on the edge of the box from Falque's pull back and then had a shot blocked from 30 yards when Spurs had strung together a lot of passes.  Just before the whistle for the interval, Athanasiadis struck a half-volley well from the edge of the box, but it was straight at Cudicini and the keeper grabbed it to bring an impressive first half to an end.

The only thing that would have improved it would have been a goal and the shout for a penalty on Kane would have given us that chance, although Kane missed against Hearts and there would be no obvious choice to stick it away.  But as good as the first half was, the second was a bit more disappointing.  As expected, PAOK came into it a bit more and started to get into the Spurs box, although Vierinha was still trying to shoot from anywhere. 

Seven minutes into the half, their best chance came when Salpingidis broke on the right wing and got to the dead ball line to pull it back, but nobody had anticipated this and the ball fell behind Anthanasiadis for Spurs to clear.  With Kyle Walker once more brought down as he burst forward in a pre-meditated tactic by the Greek side, as this happened time and time again, at least this time Fotakis got a yellow card, while others escaped early in the game.

Andros Townsend was breaking forward from left back and his cross brought a poor punch out by the keeper Kresic and the ball ran towards the far side of the box, with Pav chasing it and the keeper was all over him.  Perhaps Roman should have just stopped and the keeper would have flattened him.  However, he looked up to put the ball in front of Yago Falque, who came inside to curl a shot that just went wide of the far post with one of the PAOK defenders throwing himself horizontally to keep it out if it had gone on target. 

One dodgy moment for Spurs came in the 67th minute, as a ball in from the right saw PAOK's most dangerous player Anthanasiadis dart between Bassong and Corluka to sky a chance from six yards out.  Bassong did OK without excelling, but Corluka did not look at home at centre-half and for a player who says he doesn't like to head the ball ... he certainly proved a point.  Many times crosses were nodded out to the edge of the box or straight to PAOK players.  Also, his passing still gives palpitations when around his own box, as often the ball ends up at an opponent's feet.

The cynical Uruguayan Garcia forgot about kicking people and took the ball up-field in the 74th minute, neatly side-stepping Walker and then Falque, before the blood rushed to his head and he tried a shot from outside the left corner of the box, which went weakly into the side netting.  Cynical in it's own way, Corluka was booked for body-checking Lino as he went past Walker and then Tom Carroll picked up his caution, which was harsh by the referee.

As the game came towards the end, with Spurs looking like they had secured a good point, PAOK started to show why they have won their last eight home European games.  Carlo Cudicini came into his own with a couple of good saves and a bit of good fortune.  A Ivic effort saw the keeper dive to keep out and then the same player lobbed the ball back into the heart of the penalty are where Anthanasiadis performed an overhead kick that saw Cudicini have to get down smartly to get behind the ball and somehow get it over the bar.  While Kane went close with a free-kick from outside the box with four minutes left, the Spurs goalie needed to be on his toes to keep out a fierce effort from Vierinha, pushing it wide as the player cut in from the left wing.  The Italian was grateful that the woodwork was there when Ivic got to a Vierinha cross and his header beat the keeper, but smacked down off the bar and was booted out by the defence.

And that was the final action of a good game, albeit one which was played for the majority of the time as a half-paced tempo.  But a point from the away game will please Harry and so will the fact the young team kept their heads in a hostile environment and when subjected to some rough treatment.

With a home game against Shamrock Rovers to come, I guess that Harry will be putting out a more experienced side for that match and hoping that the benefit of this match will reap it's own rewards.

Michael Mac




What you thought
Benny The Ball With a highly inexperienced squad, Harry Redknapp showed that they could cope with such a volatile and frankly homo-erotic atmosphere, with swathes of half naked Greeks all jumping up and down with their arms around each other.

Bu that didn't distract the side and they went on to earn a point despite a penalty denied us and one given against us, which was scored, but then missed on the second take.

I assume that Redknapp is banking on picking up a point a game away to PAOK and Rubin, while looking for a win at Shamrock Rovers, while winning his home games to get through possibly as table toppers.  It might mean a more familiar looking team in some of the home games, as the players won't have to travel as far when we are at the Lane.

It will be interesting to see how the side functions against Liverpool on Sunday, despite most of them not having played out in Salonika.




Other scores in the Europa League this week :
Group A
Shamrock Rovers (IRE) 0 Rubin Kazan (RUS) 3 Thursday
Group B
FC Copenhagen (DEN) 1 Vorskla Poltava (UKR) 0 Thursday
Hannover 96 (GER) 0 Standard Liege (BEL) 0 Thursday
Group C
PSV Eindhoven (HOL) 1 Legia Warsaw (POL) 0 Thursday
Hapoel Tel Aviv (ISR) 0 Rapid Bucharest (ROM) 1 Thursday
Group D
Lazio (ITA) 2 FC Vasuli (ROM) 2 Thursday
FC Zurich (SWI) 0 Sporting Lisbon (POR) 2 Thursday
Group E
Besiktas (TUR) 5 Maccabi Tel Aviv (ISR) 1 Thursday
Dynamo Kiev (UKR) 1 Stoke City 1 Thursday
Group F
Slovan Bratislava (SVK) 1 Atheltic Bilbao (SPA) 2 Thursday
PSG (FRA) 3 Red Bull Salzburg (AUS) 1 Thursday
Group G
Austria Vienna (AUS) 1 FC Metalist Kharvik (UKR) 2 Thursday
AZ Alkmaar (HOL) 4 Malmo (SWE) 1 Thursday
Group H
Club Bruges (BEL) 1 NK Maribor (SVN) 0 Thursday
Birmingham City 1 Sporting Braga (POR) 3 Thursday
Group I
Udinese (ITA) 2 Rennes (FRA) 1 Thursday
Atletico Madrid (SPA) 2 Glasgow Celtic 0 Thursday
Group J
Steaua Bucharest (ROM) 0 Schalke 04 (GER) 0 Thursday
Maccabi Haifa (ISR) 1 AEK Larnaca (CYP) 0 Thursday
Group K
Wisla Krakow (POL) 0 Odense BK (DEN) 1 Thursday
Fulham 1 FC Twente (HOL) 1 Thursday
Group L
Sturm Graz (AUS) 0 Lokomotiv Moscow (RUS) 0 Thursday
Anderlecht (BEL) 4 AEK Athens (GRE) 1 Thursday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Rubin Kazan 1 1 0 0 3 0 3 +3
2 PAOK Salonika 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
3 Tottenham Hotspur 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0
4 Shamrock Rovers 1 0 0 1 0 3 0 -3


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