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Slavia Prague v Spurs, 14.09.06

UEFA CUP 1ST RD IST LEG
THURSDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER, 2006
SLAVIA PRAGUE 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Scorer:-
Jenas, 37

Attendance: - 14,869

Referee: - Mr H. Piccirillo (France)

Teams:-
Slavia Prague (4-4-2):- Vorel (sub Kozacik, 28); Svec, Latka, Suchy, Hubacek; Janda (sub Necas, 72), Jarolim (Capt.), Hrdlicka, Svento; Vlcek, Gaucho (sub Fort, 62)

Subs not used:- Aracic, Dosoudil; Gecov, Necid

Booked: - Gaucho

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt), Ekotto; Jenas, Zokora, Huddlestone (sub Davids, 71), Tainio, Defoe (sub Keane, 78), Mido

Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee, Stalteri, Davenport; Ziegler

Booked: - Ekotto

What can I tell you about Spurs 60th European win in their 100th such game that you have not by now seen or heard? You will already know of Jermaine Jenas’s excellent 37th minute goal that was defended successfully by Spurs, and that it was the first away goal in Europe since Gordon Durie scored in August 1991 in a Cup Winners’ Cup game.

Whilst Spurs did not excel, a clean sheet and a lead is almost all they would have asked for to bring home for the second leg of this tie in two weeks time. You will know of the truly outstanding support of some 3000 Spurs fans who used every means available to get themselves to the beautiful city of Prague. You will also be aware that Jenas’s goal was created after an excellent run by Didier Zokora, who played easily his best game for Spurs so far, and nearly repeated his goal-making feat early in the second half.

Whilst feeling obliged to record the main facts of the game for the stattos (alright me mainly), perhaps I can add just a little more insight for those of you unable to make it to the game.

Slavia’s stadium is situated high above the River Moldau which runs through Prague, and whilst the current stadium also incorporates a running track, and replaced a stadium right next door, even the ground in use looks fairly rickety. The old stadium looked like a version of the Roman Colliseum, except it was derelict newer material. The locals were hospitable, and when you bear in mind that Prague is a venue for many “Brits Stag Nights” you have a hint of what I mean, when I say that two young “ladies” were dancing on the back of a “Sugars All Night Show” pick-up for the entertainment of away supporters entering the stadium. I am not sure if they were locals or over enthusiastic Spurs supporters, but during the first half there were two or three displays in response to the Spurs chants of “Get your t*ts out for the lads!”. Such benevolence was thwarted by the transfer of some riot police from behind the Spurs contingent to strategic positions in front and behind the young ladies to prevent the crowd getting over-excited.

There were several excellent performances amongst the Spurs stars worthy of note. Jenas of course scored the goal, which was his second of only three Spurs goals so far this season. Jenas contributed more than that though with some excellent tackles, interceptions and passes. There were a few mistakes or long corners, which attracted the negative comments of all those who haven’t time for Jenas.

Didier Zokora made those two excellent runs, which indicated pace and stamina, to add to his tackling ability. Michael Dawson was superb, winning loads of crucial headers, and one or two tackles which were just as vital. All the back four were as steady as a rock, but I would also praise Ekotto, who won deserved applause for not just playing his way out of trouble, but beating one or two players in so doing down the left flank.

Aaron Lennon was missing, as we know, and Jenas’s move to the right meant that Tom Huddlestone got a chance in the middle. Big Tom started well, but occasionally passed the ball too long. His best contribution was probably the 25th minute ball through the middle to Jermain Defoe who turned on the ball and fired only just over the bar. Spurs had allowed Slavia too much possession in the early stages, and the home announcer was busy on the microphone trying to rattle up some home support against the vocal onslaught of the visiting army. The first half threat from Spurs came when Tainio found Mido on the left, whose ball was crossed in front of goal, and out of danger. Mido was involved with Tainio and Defoe in a move which ended with a shot over from a sharp angle on the left by the Egyptian. After Defoe’s effort, Pascal Chimbonda forced a good save from the substitute goalkeeper following Jenas’s corner, which the Spurs full back headed forcefully.

The lead came in the 37th minute, after Zokora’s powerful run from his own half, down the middle and a fine weighted pass to Jenas, who hit a low driven shot to the keeper’s right corner.

Before the break, I thought I had witnessed the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen in a professional game when Slavia’s skipper Jarolim (also the name of the manager) appeared to kick a corner kick to himself and thus unlawfully play the ball twice. The referee awarded a kick to Spurs, but the theory now is that the corner was supposed to have been taken by another player who touched the ball and ran as if to leave the kick to Jarolim. Apparently it’s an old clever trick, but it needs the first kicker to make sure the ball does move by its entire circumference, which was not the case.

After the break, Zokora had another lung-bursting run, chipping to Defoe, whose header went straight to the keeper. That was the last chance for Spurs till the latter stages, as they surrendered the initiative and allowed the home side to threaten. A 49th minute free kick was headed over the Spurs goal, and Jarolim threatened Robinson’s goal with a curling shot that finished wide. Paul Robinson made a great double save from Hrdlicka’s free kick and then the follow up shot by Vicek.

The fading Huddlestone was replaced by Davids, and Defoe made way for Keane. These players were involved in the two chances that did come for Spurs. Firstly Robbie tried to put Davids through, but the keeper just beat Edgar to the ball, then Jenas threaded a good ball to Keane who was one on one, but allowed the ball to be cleared. Mysteriously, Keane was the only Spurs player I spotted leaving the field, at the final whistle, before the rest of the team, and the management who took the time to applaud the Spurs fans, who loved the stadium so much they stayed behind for 20 minutes. (No not really – said riot police insisted upon it!)

Provided Spurs do not make a hash of the return leg, I note that Sparta Prague beat Hearts 2-0 away last night. Maybe there will be another opportunity late in the tournament, for Spurs fans to enjoy the er hospitality in the City of Prague!

· Read Malcolm Freeman's unique account of Spurs' trip to Prague here!

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.
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