UEFA CUP ROUND TWO
THURSDAY 23RD NOVEMBER, 2006
BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Referee: - Martin Hansson (Sweden)
Attendance: - 22,500
Leverkusen (4-4-2):- Butt; Barnetta (sub Schwegler, 15), Madouni, Juan, Castro; Schneider, Kiessling (sub Freier, 46), Ramelow (Capt.) (sub De Wit, 79), Rolfes; Barbarez, Voronin
Subs not used: - Domeschke, Stenman, Haggui, Athirson
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Tainio, Zokora, Malbranque (sub Huddlestone, 67); Keane, Berbatov (sub Mido, 76)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Davenport, Lee; Ghaly; Defoe
It was a fantastic night for Spurs and their marvellous supporters last night at the Bayer Leverkusen stadium. Spurs continued their terrific European run, with a fifth win in the UEFA Cup with a solitary goal scored inevitably by former Leverkusen star, Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov did the decent thing and celebrated the goal gracefully in front of his former fans, and when he was substituted after 76 minutes, the Bulgarian was heartily cheered off from all quarters of the ground.
With just under 1200 tickets officially available to Spurs fans, many more had made their way on a pilgrimage to Germany, and were determined to see the game by hook or by crook. Therefore there were a good two to three hundred additional supporters in sections close to the away support, and together this army of fans made as much noise as several times their number, urging their team on with a ten to fifteen minute constant rendition of ďMartin Jolís Blue and White ArmyĒ I was proud and ecstatic to be amongst so many brothers and sisters in Spurs last night.
We deserved to see our team win by a more convincing margin, but true to form, Spurs failed to take advantage of some great attacking moves, when they could have had the game killed off by half time. As it was, Leverkusen manager Michael Skibbe brought on Freier for Kiessling at half time, and his team took the game to Spurs more and more during the half. Paul Robinson had to make a couple of good saves, and was beaten by star man Bernd Schneiderís 30 yard shot mid way through the second half, which hit the foot of the post and bounced back into play.
Spurs were worthy winners though, and were rightly described as the best team in Group B, in the programme notes. Spurs have certainly put a stamp of authority on the group, with three wins out of three games, and having assured themselves of a last 32 place, must now be favourites to finish at the top, and draw a third placed side from this phase, rather than a demoted Champions League team.
The journey to Germany had started well, when we knew that Lennon, Chimbonda and Tainio in particular were travelling with the squad. All three started too, and performed well. Steed Malbranque also started, and he too continues to develop, with some very intelligent and useful passes. Didier Zokora was back to good form, and with Robbie Keane working tirelessly in all areas, all the players can be commended for a good all-round performance. Remember though that they could and should have won by more.
Leverkusen were forced to make an early substitution after fifteen minutes, when right back Barnetta was replaced by Schwegler. Berbatov had already seen goalkeeper Butt steal the ball from in front of him early on, and then had the best chance of the game so far, when he headed over a 21st minute corner. Berbatov then received a good pass from Zokora and picked his spot, but failed to beat Butt with the shot. Then came a great passing goal from Spurs. Zokora was at the start of the move, feeding the ball to Robbie Keane who threaded a great pass inside the defence which Lennon ran onto and crossed low for Berbatov to finish easily and coolly. The Spurs fansí chanting had been rewarded most appropriately!
Keane had started and nearly got on the end of a great Spurs move three minutes into the second half, when he passed to Malbranque who sent Berbatov away with a great pass down the right side. Berbatov should have set up Robbie, but lost his footing at the vital moment. Four minutes later, Paul Robinson made his first significant save from a Freier shot from the right side. Freier became a thorn in the side of Benoit Assou-Ekotto and beat him after 56 minutes, finding Voronin with his low cross, which the Ukrainian hit well, but saw another save from Englandís Number One.
Berbatov somehow contrived to miss from close range when Robbie Keane crossed from the left, and then Keane himself saw an effort saved by Butt, after good work by Aaron Lennon. After Schneiderís shot that hit the woodwork, there was another scare for Spurs, as Robbo was down to an effort by Voronin, then recovered in time to prevent the follow-up by Barbarez.
Huddlestone replaced Malbranque and I thought that he too played well, making several good passes. As injury time approached, Spurs had a good attack from their own half, started by Ekotto, continued by Keane, who sent Chimbonda on a brave run which was brought to an end when a corner was conceded. We had to endure three minutes of added time, but Huddlestone found Keane in space with a free kick taken on the right side, which was saved by the Leverkusen keeper. Mido could have set up Keane for a clincher, but chose to shoot straight at the keeper.
So ended a great night for Spurs, who next week have a week off from the Round Two schedule, having to play just Dinamo Bucharest on December 14th. Donít forget thatís a Cat A (most expensive) game for Spurs, and as was widely predicted there is likely to be little riding on the result. Letís hope that the Spurs ground is not as empty as St Jamesí Park looked last night for their tie.
As I have written before this season, we need to see Spurs show their UEFA form in the Premiership, starting on Sunday against Wigan!
∑ Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
∑ Read the preview for this game.
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