UEFA CUP ROUND TWO (Game Four)
THURSDAY 14TH DECEMBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 3 (2) DINAMO BUCURESTI 1 (0)
Defoe, 39, 50
Referee: - Mr Bernhard Brugger (Austria)
Attendance: - 34,004
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda (sub Stalteri, 75), Dawson, King (Capt.) (sub Davenport, 67), Ekotto; Ghaly, Huddlestone (sub Malbranque, 68), Zokora, Lennon; Defoe, Berbatov
(Captain’s armband handed to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee; Murphy; Mido
Bucuresti (4-4-2):- Hayeu; Mihut, Moti, Radu, Pulhac; Cristea, Margaritescu (sub Blay, 64), Ropotan, Muntaeanu (sub Goian, 57); Danciulescu (Capt.) (sub Mendy, 76), Ganea
Subs not used: - Matache; Pascovici, Codreanu, Predescu
Booked: - Goian
Spurs maintained their 100% record in Europe this season, and won their 25th game of the season in style tonight. We wondered beforehand how good the Bucuresti team were going to be, and the answer, based upon their showing has to be “not very”! Martin Jol sprung more than one surprise. Firstly, Jermain Defoe appeared beside Dimitar Berbatov, when we feared he would be missing. Secondly, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was re-instated at left back, where he has impressed in the European games, and most importantly, Big Marty chose a strong, and a very attacking team, which entertained the crowd of 34,000. That last figure will have pleased Daniel Levy and his board, who had gambled on a pricing policy to make this game as dear as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool.
Didier Zokora, as expected, was given a game amidst his three match Premiership suspension, which he will complete in time to play at Newcastle on December 23rd. Zokora was quite inspirational tonight, and for a holding midfielder, made some very advanced and exciting moves! Jermain Defoe was also outstanding for Spurs, with a 100% work-rate justifiably rewarded with two goals on the night. Once again, we can report that Spurs could, and should have scored many more, but understandably they eased up towards the end, with the substitutions of Chimbonda, King and Huddlestone, each of whom received great ovations, and who presumably will be required on Sunday in Manchester.
It was quickly evident that this was going to be no dour game, as Spurs took the bull by the horns immediately with incessant attack. Ghaly was given reign on the right of midfield, and tonight Aaron Lennon starred down the left wing. Spurs played with speed, genuine skill and style on many occasions – sometimes even able to showboat their way through or past their red-shirted opponents. It started with an early chance for Berbatov, fed the ball by Ghaly, but Dimitar missed the shot completely! Next up was Tom Huddlestone, served up the ball by Zokora from the left, and hitting a powerful drive which the keeper saved with a dive to the left.
Zokora embarked upon a run through the middle carrying the ball for a way before despatching it to the right. Defoe’s cross seemed to be taken off Berbatov’s head by goalkeeper Uladzimir Hayeu. Ekotto sent Zokora away down the left side after 7 minutes, and Zokora’s cross reached Defoe on the left side of the box, hitting another shot on target, which was saved by the busy keeper.
Bucuresti had started with a traditional 4-4-2 shape with skipper Danciulescu beside Ganea. However, after being over-run in those early stages, Danciulescu fell back to support his midfield time and time again. The visitors did gain more possession as a result of this move, and after 8 minutes had their first effort from distance that went well over the bar.
Spurs took a gift lead in the 16th minute, when the Bucuresti keeper attempted to throw a clearance, but it landed at the feet of Berbatov 25 yards out. Berbatov took his time, measured his shot, and hit it with power just inside the keeper’s right post for his tenth goal of the season. Straight from the re-start, Spurs went on the attack again. Lennon and Ghaly were involved in the build up, and Defoe hit a cracker that the keeper tipped onto the bar. The ball rebounded out and was cleared.
Cristea, playing on the right wing, and giving Ekotto a bit to think about, cut inside and hit a 20 yard shot that Robinson parried. Luckily for Spurs the ball did not fall to an opponent. After 34 minutes, Jermain Defoe went on a run from midfield and carried the ball to the edge of the area. He threaded a pass to Berbatov who fired wide, but was offside anyway. Ekotto took a throw on the left and Berbatov and Defoe were involved in the move that gave Ghaly a chance, with a low drilled shot held by Hayeu. Then Spurs took a deserved two-goal lead in devastating style. Paul Robinson claimed another assist, as he swept up a long shot, and rapidly kicked a low pass to Defoe who was lurking just inside the Bucuresti half. Defoe set off and made it all the way to the box, beating the keeper with a low shot to his right. Within minutes, Jermain was demonstrating great skill with his back to goal, flicking up Lennon’s cross, turning then firing a shot inches wide of the post.
There was no let up from Spurs after the break (during which former UEFA Cup winning Captains Mullery and Roberts were introduced), and within 5 minutes, they had gone three up. Zokora sent Berbatov away down the right channel. Berbatov crossed beyond the back post, where Ghaly passed inside to Lennon. Aaron’s shot was saved, but fell to Defoe for an easy finish. Again, almost from the re-start, Spurs threatened again. Lennon crossed from the left, and the keeper picked up what was deemed an involuntary back pass into his hands. Chimbonda teed up Berbatov on the right of the area, and despite having Defoe available for an easier chance, the Bulgarian fancied his chances but fired wide across the goalmouth.
There was plenty of action to come, and no easing up from Spurs just yet. Huddlestone took two corners around the hour mark. From the first Lennon could have done better with his shot from just outside the area, but won a corner, and then Zokora hit a 25 yarder, that Hayeu saved with a double-fisted punch. Huddlestone then hit a couple of cracking shots himself. The second of these followed excellent play down the left flank from Ekotto and Lennon.
Now the substitutions came, and Spurs eased up a little, although there was a spell when they kept possession and won cheers with a series of passes. Davenport came on when Spurs had a corner, and his first touch could have been a goal, as Ekotto’s free kick surprised him with a bounce off the post. Davenport’s second touch (and near goal) came from an ensuing corner, when his close range shot was tipped over by Hayeu, who certainly earnt his corn tonight! After76 minutes, Ghaly turned on the style to pass a defender on the right, feeding Berbatov, whose shot was saved for a corner.
The visitors got a consolation goal at the death, when the ball seemed to rebound around the Spurs area, and fell to substitute Mendy, in space on the right of the box, and able to beat Robinson with a low shot.
Spurs thus finished top of their group, earning a match against a third placed side in the UEFA Cup Group stage. We all look forward to tomorrow’s draw with deserved confidence, and yet we must travel to the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday seeking our first away win in the Premiership. Bayer Leverkusen beat Besiktas tonight to win third place in our group.
Group B Table - Rd 2 (5)
P W D L F-A Pts
1. Spurs 4 4 0 0 9-2 12
2. D. Bucuresti 4 2 1 1 6-6 7
3. B. Leverkusen 4 1 1 2 4-5 4
4. Besiktas 4 1 0 3 4-7 3
5. Club Brugge 4 0 2 2 4-7 2