OPPONENTS Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
COMPETITION Europa League Round of 32 First Leg
DATE Thursday 20th February 2014
VENUE Dnipro Arena






I am afraid this will only be a short preview, as I know little of the opposition. 

Managed by former Spurs Head Coach Juande Ramos, the Ukrainian team are made up mainly of home-grown players, with some Croatians, Brazilians, a couple of Czechs and a couple of Georgians.  None are household names, except for one.

Yevhen Konoplyanka is their star player and was at the heart of a tug of love battle between Liverpool and Spurs for his services in January, but he stayed with the Dnipro side and might move in the summer, but to who, it is not quite sure.  A nippy forward, who sometimes plays from a deeper position behind a front two, he impressed when he scored for Ukraine against England, but his star has not been rising as it had been hoped, leaving Dnipro with the quandary as to whether to sell him when they can still get money for him or hold onto him and risk losing out on a big payday.

With Spurs leaving some of their first team regulars at home there will be opportunities for others to pick up playing time.  Adebayor's absence will give Soldado a chance to add to his Europa League tally for the season and Jermain Defoe will feature at some stage to attempt to add to his club record European total.  Kyle Walker's place will be taken by Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose might be given more time to recover from his concussion, with Zeki Fryers flying out with the squad to be ready to fit in at left back.

Christian Eriksen will be playing and with Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Nabil Bentaleb likely to be the middle four, it is a fairly strong midfield.  Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson, with the two young full backs will try to protect Brad Friedel in goal.  There will be some youngsters on the bench, who will be hoping to get on to have a chance to sample the atmosphere of a European match in a foreign land.

The situation in Ukraine is unsettling at the moment and the weather will be different to back home, but I think Tottenham have enough strength in depth to bring back an away goal and they showed in Tbilisi earlier in the competition that long journeys do not affect them that much.  A win would be good, but Dnipro will want to show what they can do, having only been beaten by Fiorentina in the competition there so far this campaign.

PREDICTION Dnipro Dnirpopetrovsk    1        Tottenham Hotspur    1

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Dnipro Dnirpopetrovsk  1 (0)                                                                   Tottenham Hotspur  0 (0)
Europa League Round of 32 First Leg
Thursday 20th February 2014                                                                                                                    Kick off 18:00
Dnipro Arena
Konoplyanka (p) 81
Strinic (foul on Paulinho 35)
Zozulya (simulation) 55   


Vertonghen (foul on Matheus)   80


Crowd :   , Weather :  Cold
Referee :  Antonio Mateu Lahoz (ESP) Assistant Referees :  Pau Cebrian Devis (ESP); Javier Rodriguez (ESP)
Fourth Official :  Roberto DŪaz Pťrez del Palomar (ESP) Additional Assistants : Carlos Gůmez (ESP); Alejandro Hernandez (ESP)
Spurs kicked off the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 4 minutes.
Dnipro Dnirpopetrovsk : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
71  Denys BOYKO

17  Ivan SRTINIC     
  Ondrej MAZUCH


  6  Jaba KANKAVA
29  Rusian ROTAN (c)

8  GUILIANO (89  Serhiy POLITYLO 77)
18  Roman ZOZULYA    

99  MATHEUS  (  7  Denys KULAKOV 90)

Unused subs: 
  4  Serhiy KRAVCHENKO
20  Bruno GAMA
  Nikola KALINIC

  24  Brad FRIEDEL

  5  Jan VERTONGHEN       
20  Michael DAWSON (c)
  3  Danny ROSE

15  Etienne CAPOUE
42  Nabil BENTALEB
21  Nacer CHADLI

17  Andros TOWNSEND (23  Christian ERIKSEN 64)

  9  Roberto SOLDADO (37  Harry KANE 85)

Unused subs: 
54  Jordan ARCHER
47  Kenneth McEVOY
60  Joshua ONOMAH

Manager : Juande Ramos Manager :  Tim Sherwood
Sponsor :   Biona Shirt sponsor :  AIA
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

Spurs lost out by a single goal to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, but hold onto a hope that they may progress to the Round of 16 next week at White Hart Lane, although an improved performance will be necessary to do so.  They were lucky in the end to come away with a 0-1 defeat, but on the plus side they did create chances which showed that there are avenues through the Ukrainians defence.

Having made a number of changes, Tim Sherwood still put out a strong eleven for this first leg of the Round of 32. With Friedel, Naughton, Chadli, Dawson and Soldado coming in for Lloris, Walker, Lennon, Kaboul and Adebayor, the team lined up on a ploughed field of a pitch in Ukraine.

The first attacking move came in the ninth minute, Capoue was dispossessed in the Dnipro half and their star man Konoplyanka broke quickly on their left wing. Stepping over the ball, he went past Naughton and his low cross to the near post was met by Rotan, but he could not nudge the ball on target, putting it out for a goal kick.

Tottenhamís first effort on target came in the 13tgh minute, when Nacer Chadli did well to hold a ball forward to him and Soldado flicked his cross at goal with a near post header. Boyko, the Dnipro keeper, more by luck than judgement got his body in the way and the ball was cleared for a corner. A minute later, Friedelís advance to clear a through ball outside his box, saw Rotan attempt to fire it back past him from 35 yards, but Brad had got back to stop the ball, with Danny Rose covering behind him anyway.

The Ukrainians looked as though they were not averse to having a few clashes on the pitch, like their countrymen had off it. Following through with challenges and hitting Spurs players from behind, the referee was weak in allowing this to continue. Rose was taken out after the ball had gone and then got kicked up in the air from behind, receiving treatment for the first incident. The way the home team closed Spurs players down, it was obvious that Juande Ramos must have implemented his diet regime and probably told his team that the Spurs players were over-weight and unfit, so could be easily caught.

Halfway through the first half, Andros Townsend cut inside and hit a low shot straight at the keeper, while at the other end Friedel was twice called into action by Matheus, the first when he didnít get to a diagonal through ball and the second when he was sent clear, producing a weak finish when in on the Spurs goalie in the box, allowing him to make a close range block. It should really have finished in the back of the Tottenham net.

Ten minutes before half time Spurs had a shout for a penalty. Soldado did well to play Paulinho in on goal and when he got just outside the box, Strinic nudged him as he approached the 18 yard line. The referee decided it was outside the box and that it wasnít a goal-scoring opportunity, although the Brazilian only had the keeper in front of him. The free-kick was just right of centre and Townsend bent it, but not enough and it flew two yards wide.  Five minutes later, the home keeper Boyko almost handed (or should that be footed) Tottenham a goal, when he tried to dribble the ball out of the box, but Roberto closed him down and the goalie slipped.  He ended up more fortunate than our striker on the night, as the ball went behind him and he grabbed it gratefully.

Tottenham were finding a lot of space in behind the Dnipro right back and Rose pulled a low ball back from the dead ball line for the on-running Chadli, but the ball just popped up on him and he could not control his shot that flew over.  When Dnipro attacked next, Zozulya went through onto a long ball past the Spurs back four, but his elaborate fall when Danny Rose barged into him a couple of yards outside the box probably put the referee off giving him a free-kick, when he might have had a good case for one.

The home team started the second half quickly and caught Spurs napping on the ball and then from the  resulting corner, but Dawson cleared it for another, which was better defended when it came in. Ramosí team were still happy to have the physical battle, but Tottenham looked more up for it as the temperature dropped. Townsend hit one clearance back on the volley, which bobbled along the floor, but didnít trouble Boyko too much.

By calmly passing the ball around, Spurs were taking the heat out of the game which Dnipro were trying to generate ... mainly by rolling around the turf whenever anyone came near them. A substitute with the appearance of a young Bez from the Happy Mondays watched on from the bench, as a free-kick was played into the Tottenham box and as Friedel went for it, Zozulya went down and the referee raced to point in the area. It looked as though he had given a penalty, but rightly spotted the forward had feigned a challenge on him and received a yellow card.

Tottenhamís response was swift. Paulinho held off a challenge from Mazuch and played a low ball across the six yard box that took out the keeper, but it jumped up on Soldado as he was about to put it in and he shinned it over the bar.  It just isn't happening for him at the moment. 

The game was getting stretched a bit, with breakaway moves breaking down at each end, then both keepers had to do well coming out to deal with through balls.  Sherwood took Townsend off after a shot at goal from 30 yards, bringing on Eriksen, who scored with his first touch, but he had just drifted beyond his marker when he received the ball.

Konoplyanka showed what he could do with a run that wouldnít have been out of place at the winter Olympic slalom course. His close control saw him get around three Spurs defenders before Dawson blocked his shot on goal. Then Friedel did well to beat out a shot from Matheus in the next Dnipro attack, while Bentaleb was brought down in the box, but not according to the referee.  A great break by Eriksen, who was set clear by a neat Soldado back heel, ended with the Spaniard hitting a volley that deflected wide off two defenders.

Rather than Ukrainian football, it resembled American football at times, with blue shorts throwing blocks as Tottenham players come in to challenge or intercept. They got the decision ten minutes from time when Matheus ran through from halfway and accelerated into the box, with Vertonghen pulling him back by the shoulder and his fall persuaded the referee to point to the spot. Konoplyanka despatched it from 12 yards, going in off Friedelís right hand post.

Bentaleb carelessly gave the ball away that ended with a corner given away and the clearance fired back over Friedelís bar.  Then Harry Kane came on for Soldado in the last five minutes, but just failed to bring down a through pass from Chadli that would have put him in on goal. When Spurs won a corner, it was played long and Dawson recycled it for Paulinho to get a shot in that deflected off a defender onto the post. From that corner, Eriksenís ball in was met by Kane at the near post and his volley went across the face of goal, with Chadli inches away from getting a vital touch.  The Belgian winger conceded a free kick on the left and when Rotan played it in, two players ran across Friedelís line of sight, but the keeper kept his eyes on the ball and beat out the shot, with Dawson completing the clearance as the Dnipro men turned on to the loose ball. From that Dnipro hit the post with a Zozulya header, which was saved and then he got up to throw himself at the ball again, with Dawson getting in the way to stop his diving header. Finally, the ball was hit over the bar.

The final whistle brought an end to a very open game, with the home side probably deserving their victory, as Spurs failed to adapt to the poor pitch and failed to take the chances they did make. The fact that this was the first away goal that we have conceded in the competition shows that we have been very solid on our travels, but also sends a message that we cannot allow the speedy Dnipro players space at home, as an away goal for them would mean we needed three to go through.

Steve Kirkwood


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