UEFA CUP RD 2 (Game Two)
THURSDAY 2ND NOVEMBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (1) CLUB BRUGGE 1 (1)
Berbatov, 17, 73
Salou Ibrahim, 14
Referee: - Mr. A. Mallenco (Spain)
Attendance: - 35,716
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Ghaly, Jenas, Zokora, Lennon (sub Murphy, 79); Keane, Berbatov (sub Mido, 79)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Gardner; Huddlestone, Davids; Defoe
Brugge (4-4-2):- Stijnen; Priske, Maertens (sub Vandelannoite, 80), Clement, Gvozdenovic; Matondo, Vermant (Capt.), Englebert, Blondel; Salou Ibrahim, Balaban (sub Ishiaku, 90)
Subs not used: - Verbauwhede; Dreesen, Van Heerden, Leko, Roelandts
Booked: - Matondo
Spurs all but guaranteed their passage into the 3rd Round of the UEFA Cup, with another fine win, which was easily their most entertaining and skilful performance of the season. The away win at Besiktas was probably the best result of the season so far, but this one was for the fans, as well as for the morale and confidence of the team of course. The pedigree of Dimitar Berbatov was to the fore once again, and he repeated his European man of the match exploits with two fine goals, and a great powerful pass to Robbie Keane, who scored for only the third time this season. Berbatov’s brace brought his tally to four goals in eight games to date.
As expected, Brugge featured former Spur Jonathan Blondel in the midfield, and the youngster got a generous reception from the home support. There were probably two thousand Belgian fans who gave their all to the cause of Club Brugge, but I can report that not all Belgians in the ground were supporting our visitors today, as representatives of the Flemish Spurs Supporters’ Club were present to see their compatriots beaten.
Brugge made an enterprising start, and for a while their formation looked like a 4-2-4 with Matondo alongside Salou Ibrahim and Balaban up front, and Gaetan Englebert also to the fore. Blondel’s position was behind Englebert, rather than committed to the left flank, and that left skipper Vermant to try and shore up his defence. Didier Zokora returned to the Spurs midfield, and showed no ill effects after his mild bout of malaria. There were very few empty seats in the ground, but the bigger test of fan loyalty and Spurs’ pricing strategy will come when we meet Dinamo Bucharest in December, when Season Ticket vouchers will not be enough to gain entrance.
Brugge made the more impactive start, with Paul Robinson having to make a good save with a dive to the right, after Englebert struck Balaban’s cross from the left. Spurs fans then claimed a penalty for handball, as Ekotto’s cross from a Lennon pass seemed to be handled by Maertens. Soon after that Lennon fed Jenas, who hit a shot across the keeper and wide. Lennon was to be the darling of the crowd all night, although he was unable to resolve Martin Jol’s hopes of being a goal-scorer, as Aaron frittered many chances to score. Around this time, Chimbonda and Balaban had an off the ball set-to, when Balaban’s hands were raised more than once. However, this action took place behind the referee’s gaze.
Although Spurs had been on the attack, it came as no surprise when the visitors took the lead through a goal of genuine quality – a description that can be applied to three of the four goals scored on the night. Salou Ibrahim had his back to goal about 25 yards out, turned to his left and created a yard of space in which he hit a great right foot shot that flew to the left of Paul Robinson, whose right hand was nearer to the ball than his left. Spurs took only three minutes to level the scores though, as Jenas’s floated free kick was headed across the box by Chimbonda, and met with a beautiful powerful volley by Berbatov into the bottom left corner. Stijnen had no chance of reaching this fine equaliser.
The tone had been set by now, and it was set to be an open and entertaining game all night. After 28 minutes, following good defending by Ledley King and Paul Robinson, the keeper threw to Aaron Lennon, whose run led to a cross by Keane from left to the back of goal. Hossam Ghaly had a great chance but blew it by firing over the bar from 12 yards. Lennon and Jenas were involved in the build up to the move that ended with Berbatov meeting Ghaly’s cross at the near post, but having his efforts blocked. Shortly after, Berbatov was able to pass back to Jenas who had what was loads of time at this level to place a shot, but fired wide – although the ball did brush the outside of the post. Englebert had an effort go wide just before the break, but the teams went for their half-time cuppa on level terms.
Early in the second half, both Keane and Jenas got into good positions, but failed to take advantage, before Zokora flicked the ball through to Keane, whose shot was saved at the foot of the near post. Lennon had a cross cleared, and then picked up the ball for a shooting chance that was blocked. From the resulting corner, Berbatov’s header was headed over with a skewed defensive clearance. Lennon had another shot that should have beaten the keeper, but was fired straight at him, but at long last, after being on top for so long, Spurs took the lead in the 63rd minute. Berbatov met a long clearance inside the Brugge half, controlled the ball, turned to his left and sent a strong diagonal pass into the path of Robbie Keane who raced on and gleefully whacked a right footer past the helpless keeper. It was a real crowd pleaser, and certainly made Robbie happy!
Just two minutes later, Robbie could only back-heel a Paul Robinson ball that would otherwise have run out of play. The ball ran to Lennon who tried a curler, with abysmal accuracy, I’m afraid. Spurs took a two goal lead in the 73rd minute after a fine move which started with good work by Keane on the left to win and distribute the ball. The move ran from left to right, before Chimbonda made space for Ghaly to cross, and that man Berbatov met the cross to head home back across the goal.
Brugge were not quite ready to give up, and Balaban did well to beat two Spurs defenders on their right flank, getting a pass low to Matondo, whose shot went just above the left stanchion. After that, there was a round of substitutions, allowing rapturous applause for both Lennon and Berbatov, and for much of the remainder, Spurs dominated possession and happily played out time.
Bucharest beat Besiktas in the other game played tonight, and Spurs will travel to Leverkusen in three weeks’ time at the top of their group in good spirits. Now it’s back to Premiership action, and we need to replicate the best of tonight’s performance against our nemesis from West London.
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