UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE GROUP J
THURSDAY 26TH NOVEMBER, 2015
QARABAG F.K 0(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0)
Attendance:- 28,000 (TBC)
Referee:- Tasos Sidiropoulos
Assistants:- Damianos Efthimiadis, Polychronis Kostaras
Additional assistants:- Michael Koukoulakis , Stavros Tritsonis
Fourth official:- Lazaros Dimitriadis
(All officials from Greece)
Qarabag (4-2-3-1):- Sehic; Medvedev, Huseynov, Sadiqov (Capt.), Agolli; Qarayev, Richard; Tagiyev (sub Chumbinho, 65), Quintana, Ismayilov (sub Mammadov, 80); Poepon (sub Armenteros, 54)
Subs not used:- Valiyev; Yunuszade; Michel, Qurbanov
Booked:- Richard (Un-sporting conduct), Garayev (foul on N’jie)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Mason (sub Carroll, 73); Son (sub N’Jie, 80), Alli, Eriksen (sub Onomah, 91); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Wimmer; Townsend, Winks
Pochettino’s measured approach and Kane’s goal ensures qualification
Spurs’ head coach Mauricio Pochettino surprised most observers with the strength of the squad he took 2,500 miles to Azerbaijan, but the Argentinean clearly knew what he was doing every step of the way. Having left first choice full backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose at home, along with Mousa Dembele, Pochettino was always going to start with his strongest remaining selection. His team played the first half at training ground pace, but had full control in the Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, where an enthusiastic home crowd was baying for success. When the game opened up mid-way through the second half, by which time Spurs had already upped the pace, they survived one or two threats by the home side, but had the stronger attacks. Spurs hit the wood work twice, and deservedly won the game with a fine goal by Harry Kane, which followed Son’s first touch from an Eriksen corner.
The only changes for Spurs from the team which so convincingly beat West Ham on Sunday were the replacement full backs, and Ryan Mason for Dembele. Dele Alli played an advanced midfield role, sometimes ahead of Kane, and was prominent, able to give his all to the cause, as he will be suspended on Sunday. Son was once again impactive, and I thought that both Eriksen and Kane showed plenty of good touches in attack. The solid defensive trio of Alderweireld, Vertonghen and Dier was just exactly what it says on the tin. Maybe we should call them the so solid crew.
Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov was required to play his stand-in Dutch striker Poepon as Armenteros was deemed insufficiently fit to start, although he did replace Poepon with 35 minutes remaining, and when the scores were level.
The match kicked off at 10pm local time, four hours ahead of UK time.
Dele Alli won a challenge in a very advanced position near the bye-line after three minutes. His ball inside from the right was passed through Eriksen and Son before Ryan Mason had a shot, which was held by Sehic, who was busy all night. Mason had another pop at goal five minutes later, which passed over the target. Spurs were dominating possession, but the game was not setting the pulses racing. Trippier had a couple of full-on challenges with Tagiyev, and it was all he could do to keep the winger at bay.
After a Spurs corner on 14 minutes, taken by Eriksen, Ryan Mason chipped a good ball over the defence, where Son picked up, but was flagged offside. Trippier raced onto a good ball by Alderweireld, crossing for Dele Alli, whose shot was just wide. Spurs were persistently trying to attack through the middle, but were being closed down by tight marking. Son picked up another long ball towards the left, and had a one-two exchange with Kane as he came inside, but the Qarabag defence cleared.
Quintana found some space and fed the ball to Ismayilov, whose shot was held by Lloris. Alderweireld tried a shot from almost 35 yards, but this was too comfortable for Sehic. Eriksen lifted a lovely ball over the defence for Son, but again he was just offside. Alli had an on-target header held by the keeper from an Eriksen corner, before Kan e received a short cross from davies, turned quickly and hit a good shot which was deflected for another Spurs corner. After that corner, Qarabag had a dangerous break, with Ismayilov in a central position feeding the ball to Quintana on his right. Lloris parried this shot, and Spurs cleared.
Richard (who scored from the spot at White Hart Lane) was booked for his conduct towards Harry Kane and other Spurs players when they carried on after Poepon fell injured in a no-foul situation.
Three minutes into the second half, Dele Alli fed the ball to Son, who was on the left of the area, but had the ball put out off his feet by Huseynov. At the other end, Richard tried a shot from distance, but this was fodder for Lloris. Eriksen fed a short pass to Son in a tight situation, and Alli’s effort was blocked. Vertonghen carried the ball into the opponents’ half, before passing to Eriksen to his right. Eriksen advanced with the ball a little, and then hit his shot just wide across the keeper.
Quintana ran in from the right, hitting a shot which was fielded by Vertonghen, at the cost of a corner. Spurs had a break after another Qarabag attack as the game truly opened up. Harry Kane picked up a long ball and fed it to Alli, who had another shot held. Alli returned the compliment for Kane from an inside left position, before Kane hit the side netting from a very tight angle. An Eriksen shot was blocked and fell for Son, whose shot hit the top of the bar after the keeper got his fingers to the ball.
Eric Dier had a low drive saved by Sehic, conceding a corner to Spurs, who by now were well into double figures on the corner count against very little from the home side. Spurs put Qarabag under some pressure at this stage winning three corners in quick succession. Lloris did have to make a good save from Quintana who hit a shot after a good run. Son had another shot go out for a corner at the other end though.
Ryan Mason, whose energy had been flagging, was replaced by Tom Carroll, whose fresh legs, skill and determination gave him a good cameo appearance for Spurs. After a good ball by Alderweireld, Alli hit side-footed a shot which rebounded off the post. Goalkeeper Sehic needed his best save of the night to keep Harry Kane’s effort out, after more creativity by Eriksen. It was probably from this shot that Spurs scored from the resulting corner. It was taken from the left by Eriksen, headed on at the near post at close range by Son, and headed home, also at close range by Kane. Harry has now scored in 6 successive club games.
Son was replaced by N’Jie, who also had fresh legs, but whose application wasn’t always 100%. Eriksen tried a shot from a full 25 yards, which passed over the goal. Alli combined with N’Jie, who did win a free kick 20 yards out, but Eriksen’s effort hit the wall. Despite great effort on the part of the home side, Spurs eased their way through the three minutes of added time. The win puts them top of the group, three points ahead of Anderlecht who won 2-0 at Monaco. A draw in our final group game will be enough to give us top spot and the advantage in the Round of 32 draw, but Monaco will be determined to win to try and overtake Anderlecht.
The fact that Spurs did play at a measured pace in the first half does mean that those players who will be required on Sunday did not expend too much energy. We must trust in Pochettino’s judgement now with his selections and decisions. There have been times, even recently, when I had my doubts, but 12 unbeaten games in the Premier League and guaranteed European football after Christmas has to be commended.
P.S. – This was our first away win in Europe since November last year, when we beat Asteras Tripolis 2-1.
EUROPA LEAGUE GROUP J
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Spurs 5 3 1 1 8-5 3 10
2. Anderlecht 5 2 1 2 6-5 1 7
3. Monaco 5 1 3 1 4-5 -1 6
4. Qarabag 5 1 1 3 3-6 -3 4