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UEFA Cup Rd 4
Sporting Braga v Spurs, 08.03.07


Braga scorers:-
Paulo Jorge, 76
Ze Carlos, 81

Spurs scorers:-
Keane, 57, 90
Malbranque, 72

Attendance: - 15,000

Referee: - Mr. Yuri Baskakov (Russia)

Braga (4-3-3):- Paulo Santos; Luis Filipe, Paulo Jorge (Capt.), Rodriguez, Carlos Fernandes; Joao Pinto (sub Maciel, 80), Andrade, Castanheira; Bruno Gama (sub Cesinha, 69), Ze Carlos, Wender (sub Diego, 69)

Subs not used: - Dani Mallo; Nem, Paito; Ricardo Chaves

No bookings

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Malbranque, Tainio (sub Huddlestone, 74), Zokora, Lennon; Keane (Capt.), Berbatov

Subs not used: - Cerny; Stalteri, C. Lee; Ghaly, Taarabt; Defoe

Booked: - Berbatov, Chimbonda

Happy Clappers stunned by Keane

Spurs maintained their 100% record in this season’s UEFA Cup campaign, thanks to two goals by skipper Robbie Keane; one by Steed Malbranque; some good creative work by Aaron Lennon; and not least through some determined midfield play by Teemu Tainio, whose name was chanted by the travelling support when he was replaced by Tom Huddlestone with 15 minutes to go. Almost immediately, Spurs, who were 2-0 up at the time, let the hosts back into the tie with goals from a harsh penalty and a questionable free kick. It was no more than justice when Keane scored yet another added time winner for Spurs, who have now won 5 consecutive games, scoring 17 goals in the process.

Lennon carried on where he had left off at Upton Park, forging paths down the left side of midfield, allowing Malbranque to perform a less adventurous role down the right. Braga (who had not conceded a home goal in the competition, never mind lost a game) played an attacking game, with a fluid 4-3-3 system that allowed right back Luis Filipe to support the midfield, and Bruno Gama, Ze Carlos and Wender to try and find a way past the Spurs defence. Veteran Joao Pinto, Andrade and Castanheira filled the Braga midfield, with Andrade given the task of supporting his defence.

The atmosphere in this unique stadium, consisting of just the two main stands on either side of the pitch, was whipped up with the help of Braga’s jolly ditty, their version of a Jumbotron, and the not inconsiderable audio enhancement of the Braga clapping devices (some sort of large laminated concertina sheet). The stadium was only half full, and some 2,500 Spurs fans occupied upper and lower tiers.

Both teams left plenty of spaces for play-making, and the game flowed in an entertaining style from end to end throughout proceedings, with Spurs clearly the better team, and despite a barren first half, looking likely to score a goal or two. Berbatov had a number of good chances, and the first of these was made for himself after 5 minutes, with a good run from the left side, taking the ball into the area, where the Bulgarian fired his shot into the side netting. Tainio (having one of his best games of the season for Spurs) had the next attempt, following a good ball by Berbatov. Tainio’s shot from just outside the box was well saved by Paulo Santos, most definitely the busier of the two keepers.

The next minute though, Paul Robinson was in good action, as he saved but could not hold Pinto’s deflected shot, then saved again when Ze Carlos tried to score from the rebound, from an angle on the right. Castanheira had a powerful shot go wide, picking up a ball from the right and hitting his shot from a central position. The “happy clappers” were feeling good! After 20 minutes, Malbranque found Berbatov with a great ball from the right. Berbatov’s shot had the keeper beaten, but drifted outside the post. Paul Robinson was alert to Gama’s effort taken first time, when Luis Filipe crossed from the right. This move emanated from Zokora’s loss of the ball in the midfield.

With ten minutes remaining in the first half, Berbatov fed the ball to Robbie Keane, whose shot was well saved for a corner. A few minutes later, Spurs broke well from defence, and Lennon seemed to be brought down in the box, but the Russian referee was having none of it. From the follow-up, Lee crossed the ball hard and low, Keane dummied and Berbatov’s shot was saved by that man Paulo Santos. Spurs next attack was led by Zokora from deep, and again Berbatov’s effort was saved.

After the break, Ze Carlos threatened with a decent shot, but Spurs finally gained their just rewarding the 57th minute, when Aaron Lennon managed to get through about three defenders, with the ball seeming to stick to his feet. Lennon chipped a short pass to Keane, who took his goal brilliantly with a chested control then a volley into the net. Keane had another chance within minutes, when Berbatov and Malbranque combined skilfully to setup the chance, which went just wide.

Braga made a double substitution, but went behind by a further goal in the 72nd minute, thanks again to good work from Lennon. Malbranque had sent Aaron away down the left wing with a ball from the middle, and was there to fire home the rebound, when Paulo Santos could only parry Lennon’s shot.

Following Huddlestone’s entry onto the field, Braga gained a dubious penalty when Gardner was adjudged to have committed a foul on Diego, who was actually running away from goal, so it was a bit of a silly challenge to be making anyway. Braga skipper Paulo Jorge stepped up, but Robinson made a good save from the spot with a dive to his left. Unfortunately he could not hold the ball and the Braga skipper was able to score with the follow-up. When Lee was punished out on the left flank, and Ze Carlos scored with a near post header from the free kick, it did not look so good for Spurs, but in added time, Zokora found Keane who made good use of space and beat the keeper with a low shot, that he might have got a touch on, but it hit the net to give the Spurs fans plenty to cheer about, as they were forced to linger in the stadium for a good half hour, by which time it was Friday morning already, when the long trek home could begin.

Our detention did allow us to watch most of the team going through a structured warm-down process, as the preparation for Chelsea on Sunday began in earnest. Dare we dream about a sixth consecutive win?

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

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