COMPETITION Europa League Group J
DATE Thursday 17th September 2015
VENUE White Hart Lane






Tottenham start their Europa League campaign with a home group match against an unusual opponent in Qarabag - the Champions of Azerbaijan.  A long way from home, there might not be too much support for the visitors, but they have shown that is not a drawback in the competition.

In qualifying for the group stages, they beat Young Boys of Berne 4-0 on aggregate, proving that they are no mugs and they only just lost out 0-1 on aggregate to Glasgow Celtic in the Champions League qualifiers before the Scottish club were knocked out in the next round.  With three wins out of five away ties in Europe, they have also shown that they are a side who have to be respected.

Their squad contains three Brazilians (one called Chumbino - Robinho's brother), a couple of Spanish midfielders, an Albanian, one Dutch, a Swede and a Frenchman.  The goalkeeper comes from Bosnia-Herzegovina and is their national keeper, so he might provide a barrier to goal at 6' 3" tall.  The only player I had heard of was Michel, who played against Spurs for Birmingham City the last time they were in the Premier League, being a tall midfielder he failed to make his mark on the top flight in England and has knocked around Europe since then, settling this summer in Azerbaijan.

Defender Raschad Sadygov is the team captain and the most experienced player with over 60 appearance sin European competition, while the danger man in terms of goals could be Richard Almeida, who has a scoring rate of one every five games.  Apart from that, their team is a bit of a mystery, with no English team having faced Azerbaijani opposition at this stage and only West Ham United having played a team from there before in this season's qualifying game, with the Irons losing out  3-4 on aggregate.

We might see the likes of Vorm, Rose, Lamela, Carroll, Trippier, Wimmer and Townsend start and even get a glimpse of Njie, Pritchard, Winks and Onomah in action.  However, you only have to look at results elsewhere in Europe to see that teams who have got this far have done so on merit and should not be under-estimated.  I am hoping that whatever team Spurs put out - and they should be strong teams at home to get nine home points - they are a cut above what Qarabag have faced so far.  The Azerbaijani team will be tough, well drilled and willing to give everything, but if Spurs can get their game going against them, I expect them to run out decent winners.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    3        Qarabag    0
Without Christian Eriksen (knee), Nabil Bentaleb (ankle), Mousa Dembele (foot) and Ryan Mason (knee), the midfield will be changed in both defensive and attacking areas. 

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Tottenham Hotspur  3 (2)                                                                       
Europa League
Thursday 17th September 2015
White Hart Lane
Qarabag  1 (1)

Kick off 20:05
Son  27m 11s
Son  29m 25s
Lamela  85m 36s
Richard Almeida  6m 11s
Medvedev (foul on Njie)  83
Sehic (not taking goal-kick from right place)  85
Sadiqov (handbags)   87
Michel (foul on Alli)   90+1


Alli (handbags)  87




Crowd :   26,463 Weather :  Mild
Referee :  Adrien Jaccottet (SUI) Assistant Referees :  Raffael Zeder (SUI) ; Vital Jobin (SUI)
Fourth Official :  Johannes Vogel (SUI) Additional Assistants :  Alain Bieri (SUI); Nikolaj Hänni (SUI) 
UEFA Observer :  Peter Fröjdfeldt (SWE) -
Qarabag kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 4 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Qarabag : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

16  Kieran TRIPPER
27  Kevin WIMMER
  3  Danny ROSE

15  Eric DIER  (10  Harry WINKS  76)

11  Erik LAMELA 
20  Dele ALLI      
17  Andros TOWNSEND   (14  Clinton NJIE  68)

  7  Heung-Min SON        (10  Harry KANE  68)

Unused subs: 
13  Michel VORM

33  Ben DAVIES
Federico FAZIO
25  Josh ONOMAH

  13  Ibrahim SEHIC      

  5  Maksim MEDVEDEV      
14  SADIQOV  (c)      

10  Dani QUINTANA Sosa (  8  MICHEL  79     )
25  Cavbid TAGIYEV  (90  ARMENTEROS  67)
  9   Reynaldo dos Santos SILVA

20  Richard ALMEIDA 

Unused subs: 

Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Gurban Gurbanov
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  Azersun
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

A shock start was overcome by a slick Spurs side to beat Qarabag 3-1, but there were a few too many moments of concern for my liking.

With Spurs making a number of changes and debuts handed to Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier and substitute Clinton Njie, there was a little nervousness amongst the side as they faced Azerbaijani opposition for the first time.  There shouldn't have been, but the lack of competitive match action together nearly cost Spurs in the first half.  Tom Carroll came into the defensive midfield two, pairing up with Eric Dier.  Dele Alli played centrally in the attacking three midfielders, flanked by Andros Townsend and Erik Lamela, leaving Son up front on his own.

Within moments of the kickoff, Son had made a yard for a shooting position, only to square the ball to Lamela, but Sehic came out to grab the ball off his toes. Before that Qarabag had a chance when Lamela's pass didn't reach Carroll and Reynaldo nipped in to stride forward on goal, but his shot was mis-hit and although Hugo had to dive to his right, it wasn't a tough save to make.  They had more luck in the sixth minute, when Agolli drove into the box from their left wing and Kieran Trippier's debut got off to a bad start when he fouled the visiting defender to concede a penalty. Almeida stepped up to take it and slotted it past Lloris to the keeper's left to give Qarabag a surprise lead.

Spurs pushed onto the visitors' defence straight away and won a corner, but it failed to beat the first man. Trippier was getting forward more and he was getting some joy there, but the intricate Spurs passing around the edge of the box was being crowded out and not providing a shooting chance. When Son did get the opportunity, the effort was blocked for a corner and from it, Toby Alderweireld got his head to it, but put it wide.

The Azerbaijanis were passing the ball around and not sitting back behind the ball to protect their lead. Almeida had a shot from outside the box, but it wasn't powerful enough to trouble the keeper too much. At tht other end, an up and under from Dier was won in the air by Rise, forcing a defender to clear for a corner. From it, Trippier's cross went off an opponent for another corner and that was played low into the near post. This time Townsend got it into the six yard box and unmarked, Son was on hand to shoot home from a few yards out with the keeper too hesitant in trying to claim the ball. So, 28 minutes gone and it was 1-1.

It was great for the Korean to score on his home debut, but better was to come a couple of minutes later. Dele Alli got the ball, found Son inside and took a return pass to power into the box on the right side. As he approached the dead ball line, he stopped, sending two defenders sliding past him and coolly looked up to square the ball back to Son, who drove his shot across Sehic to find the net. It was a really good build-up and a fine finish, indicating what our new signing is capable of.

Another new boy showing what he could do was Kevin Wimmer. He did everything asked of him effectively and showed a good degree of maturity for a young player. He had the nous to chest the ball instead of head it when it was sensible to do so and his use of the ball was good. He even made a run up-field, exchanging passes with Rose, before putting in a cross. Unfortunately, it was picked off by the keeper, but too many of our crosses were once again not finding the heads of Spurs players.

Alli had a chance when Andros played him in, but the keeper was out quickly to block him and from the corner, Townsend played it to Trippier and his early cross found Alderweireld, who rose high to head the ball over the bar, but he should have done better by getting above the ball to get it on target.

With 37 minutes on the clock, Danny Rose started a mad half hour that almost let Qarabag in for another goal. Firstly, he decided to chest the ball back to Hugo from the edge of the box, but it only dropped into the path of Ismayilov. The Qarabag player got there first and luckily for the Spurs left back, his attempted lob over Lloris went a long way wide when he should have scored. The visitors put a good passing move together that opened Spurs up down our right and the ball came in, but Yenaldo, under pressure from Wimmer, could only head onto the roof of the net.  Rose almost let them in again, with a poor header back infield, allowing another attack on the Tottenham goal.

When the play moved to the Park Lane end, Trippier laid a header into Townsend's path and he laid the ball square for Lamela, who couldn't gather the ball in, with the goal at his mercy. Even before the end of the first half, there was still a good opportunity for Qarabag to level it up, when the ball was worked to Taghiyev, but he could only put his curled effort way into the Paxton Road crowd, when he should have done better.

With the half-time interval filled with hockey talk with Spurs supporting Helen Richardson, the second half saw no changes and it was Qarabag who almost struck first, getting through on the wing, where Ismayilov crossed looking for Reynaldo, but Alderweireld got in a telling interception.  Tottenham tested Sehic soon after, with Danny Rose making a barrelling run down the left before cutting infield and shooting at goal, where the goalie threw a block in front of him.  Tottenham should have extended the lead in the 52nd minute, when Lamela was presented with a golden opportunity.  Erik started the move, playing the ball up to Eric Dier, who had got into an advanced position.  He played the ball onto Alli and he returned it to Dier, who did the same for Alli to take possession again.  A little touch set up Lamela with a shooting opportunity from a central position, about 16 yards out with only the keeper to beat, which he did, but when the crowd were halfway through celebrating a goal, the ball hit the keeper's left hand upright and bounced out across goal.  It was a chance for Erik to lay to rest a  lot of criticism that has come his way and the pressure of Pochettino's remarks about this needing to be a big season might not have helped his overall performance.

The understanding among the forward players appeared to be better than those at the back.  Son played a one-two with Lamela and when he was played in on the left side of the box, he tried to chip the keeper, but never got the required elevation on his effort.  Play moved quickly to the other end and while Wimmer got the ball out as Qarabag attacked, Quintana fired it back at goal and the ball missed the target by about a yard.  Harry Kane came on for Son, denying him the chance of a hat-trick, but he would be needed for Sunday, while Townsend left the action to be replaced by debutant Clinton Njie.  The Cameroon striker's first touch was to take a free-kick out on the left wing, but it failed to reach it destination, with a defender clearing it as it entered the box.  There was defending to do still and Qarabag had a good chance when Reynaldo crossed to find Quintana's head and the ball was headed downwards, as the text books say, but it lacked any power and Hugo took the ball easily as it bounced up in the six yard box. 

There was a moment's concern when Eric Dier went down injured after stretching for a tackle, but after treatment he was able to carry on and hit a 25 yard shot on target, although he was substituted by Harry Winks so as not to take any chances, with this game almost won.   An even longer range shot was tried by Agolli, but it was straight at Lloris and with ten minutes left, Qarabag made a couple of substitutions.  The last ten minutes got a bit fractious, with a flurry of bookings - a couple for bad fouls by the visitors, one for dissent, one for taking a goal-kick from outside the six yard box (different laws in Qarabag perhaps ?) and the Qarabag captain and Dele Alli for an exchange that saw the visiting captain complain about a mark on his thigh when he tried to foul Alli late and for the young Spurs midfielder for pushing him away.  Losing their discipline contributed to the third Tottenham goal, coming directly after the keeper had been cautioned.  His goal kick ended up with Sadygov, who was robbed by Harry Kane, who fed Lamela and despite taking his time, produced a delightful dink over the prone Sehic, who had gone down too early and this time the ball did hit the net to get the Argentinian a goal, which he celebrated with relief. 

In the closing seconds of added time, Dele Alli produced a fine run on the left, coming inside into the area, beating two Qarabag players in the process, before rolling a slow, deliberate shot at goal that just crept past Sehic's left hand post.  And at the end, Spurs were good winners, but it could have been much closer had the Azerbaijan side had any decent finishers.  The rest of the games in the Europa League group will be tougher and Spurs will need to be tighter in their play.

The understanding between Alli, Son and Lamela was very pleasing, with some fantastic first time passing opening the opposition up, with some flicks and tricks included.  This wound up the Qarabag players and invited some heavy tackles, but the way Tom Carroll and Eric Dier played in front of the back four, they won a lot of the ball through tackles or interceptions to keep them at bay.  Wimmer looked solid, but he wasn't truly tested, so other games will be more of an examination, although Trippier looked better as the game went on after giving away the early penalty.  Son took both of his goals well and looked happy to run at players, while Lamela had moments when he was tackled too easily, but he kept going and looked a better provider until he struck at the end.  Carroll was busy and accurate with his passing, while Dele Alli showed the full range of his skills in the match, with nit-megs, back-heels and neat turns in tight situations.  The side showed flashes of good movement and passing, which bodes well for the future.

So, three point sin the bag and top of the group as Anderlecht and Monaco played out a 1-1 draw.  Harder games lie ahead, but the sooner we secure qualification for the knock-out stages, the better.

Charlie Mason




Qarabag are nicknamed the Horsemen after a particularly long faced Chairman the club had when they first formed.


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What you thought
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Other scores during this round of matches :
Group A
Fenerbahce (TUR) 1 Molde (NOR) 3 Thursday
Ajax (HOL) 2 Glasgow Celtic 2 Thursday
Group B
Bordeaux (FRA) 1 Liverpool 1 Thursday
Sion (SWI) 2 Rubin Kazan (RUS) 1 Thursday
Group C
Qabala (AZE) 0 PAOK (GRE) 0 Thursday
Borussia Dortmund (GER) 2 Krasnodar (RUS) 1 Thursday
Group D
Midtjylland (DEN) 1 Legia Warsaw (POL) 0 Thursday
Napoli (ITA) 5 Club Brugge (BEL) 0 Thursday
Group E
Rapid Vienna (AUS) 2 Villarreal (SPA) 1 Thursday
Vitoria Plzen (CZE) 2 Dinamo Minsk (RUS) 0 Thursday
Group F
FC Slovan Liberec (SVN) 0 Sporting Braga (POR) 1 Thursday
Groningen (HOL) 0 Marseille (FRA) 3 Thursday
Group G
Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (UKR) 1 SS Lazio (ITA) 1 Thursday
St. Etienne (FRA) 2 Rosenborg (NOR) 2 Thursday
Group H
Sporting Lisbon (POR) 1 Lokomotiv Moskva (RUS) 3 Thursday
Skenderbeu (ALB) 0 Besiktas (TUR) 1 Thursday
Group I
Fiorentina (ITA) 1 FC Basel (SWI) 2 Thursday
Lech Poznan (POL) 0 Belenenses (POR) 0 Thursday
Group J
Anderlecht (BEL) 1 AS Monaco (FRA) 1 Thursday
Group K
Apoel Nicosia (TUR) 0 Schalke 04 (GER) 3 Thursday
Asteras Tripolis (GRE) 1 Sparta Prague (CZE) 1 Thursday
Group L
Partizan Belgrade (SER) 3 AZ Alkmaar (HOL) 2 Thursday
Athletic Bilbao (SPA) 3 Augsburg (GER) 1 Thursday



Group J Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Tottenham Hotspur 1 1 0 0 3 1 3 +2
2 Anderlecht 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0
3 AS Monaco 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 0
4 Qarabag 1 0 0 1 1 3 0 -2


Position before match :  N/A
Position after match :  1st

* Pub facts may not actually be true, but after a few pints everyone will think so.


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