UEFA CUP RD TWO GAME FOUR
THURSDAY 6TH DECEMBER, 2007
ANDERLECHT 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0)
Berbatov (pen), 71
Referee: - Mr. D. Skomina (Slovenia)
Attendance: - 22,500
Anderlecht (4-4-2):- Zitka; Wasilewski, Juhasz, Van Damme, Deschacht (Capt.); Polak, Biglia, Hassan, Goor; Frutos (sub Thereau, 55), Mpenza (sub Baseggio, 71)
Subs not used: - Proto; Sare, Da Silva, De Man
Booked: - Polak, Goor, Wasilewski, Hassan
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, Zokora, Lee (sub Stalteri, 80); Lennon, Jenas, Huddlestone, Malbranque; Keane (Capt.) (sub Berbatov, 58), Bent (sub Defoe, 71)
(Armband to Robinson)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Tainio, Boateng, Taarabt
Booked: - Jenas, Zokora
Spurs came through a difficult night in Brussels to gain the one point needed to guarantee their progress through to the UEFA Cup “Round of 32”. I stand to be corrected, but I believe that because Getafe meet Anderlecht in the final round of games, Spurs will finish second in the group and have to play a team that falls out of the Champions League. The home defeat against Getafe could thus still prove expensive, but it is an achievement to once again be taking part in the latter stages of European Competition. It was also a difficult night for football and non-football reasons. Anderlecht needed a win to gain their guaranteed progress (now still pending), and their fans became so frustrated with Spurs ability to keep their team at bay, that they subjected Zokora and Robinson in particular with missiles such as cigarette lighters and a metal rod that Robinson handed to the fourth official at the end of the game.
I thought Robinson had his best game of the season, making one or two match-changing saves – especially one in the second half when at short range he seemed to stretch back to claw the ball away from the goal-line. After persistent rain all day and during the match, the conditions were very difficult and ball control was at a premium on both sides. Malbranque was the best of Spurs’ outfield players, with his excellent work-rate and some effective passes. Berbatov showed great skill when he replaced Robbie Keane, who had also worked his socks off for the cause, before his three-match suspension begins this Sunday.
Spurs were improvising from the start of course, as Younes Kaboul had been left at home, and Didier Zokora partnered Dawson. Zokora did that to varying degrees of effectiveness, making one brilliant tackle in the second half, but on other occasions failing to defend stoutly enough. Mind you, Spurs frailties in that department were all too evident when Anderlecht were allowed to take the lead in the 68th minute, before Berbatov equalised with a penalty three minutes later.
Anderlecht lined up with their midfield in two bans of two. Fans’ favourite – Argentinean Lucas Biglia had Jan Polak on his right, and ahead of them were Ahmed Hassan and Bart Goor. For much of the poor first half, Spurs allowed these players too much time and space on the ball, and the home side seemed to have the upper hand on creativity, whilst Spurs worked the ball into promising areas, but failed to make best use by making a poor final pass or showing too much of the ball to an opponent.
Huddlestone made a decent start but seems to fade as a game progresses. After 4 minutes, he nearly set up Keane who did hit a shot, but without power. Anderlecht’s left back and Captain, Olivier Deschacht beat the Spurs defence with a dangerous cross, but fortunately it went out of play for a throw. Chimbonda’s cross after 7 minutes was parried with Lennon closest to the follow up, but the ball was cleared. Huddlestone disappointed when Bent was fouled and Tom tried a free kick from fully 40 yards, that sailed over the bar. Lennon nearly got on the end of a deep cross by Steed Malbranque, and Jenas tried a low shot that was held by Zitka. Midway through the half, Bent went down in the box after another Malbranque ball, but the referee was having none of that appeal.
Whilst the home side had failed to test Robinson up till now, Frutos did so after 33 minutes with a decent effort on the turn, and then just before the break a poor ball by Huddlestone led to an Anderlecht shot which Robinson parried and saw cleared with support from his defence.
After the break, Spurs played as if they sensed the game was there for the taking, running at players, taking them on, and passing them. Chimbonda took the ball into the area, passed back to Keane, whose shot was parried. Chimbonda wanted to follow up, but he was offside. Chimbonda then sold Jenas short with a couple of passes that led to breaks by the home side. Firstly Frutos made a bee-line for goal, and whilst he was closed down by Dawson, he still got his shot in which Robinson saved. Then Mpenza got away and was prevented by a great saving tackle by Zokora from even getting a shot on goal.
In his last play before being replaced, Robbie Keane combined with Bent, before hitting a low shot wide. Berbatov hit a great free kick when Malbranque was fouled on the edge of the box but the keeper tipped over for a corner. Then came three minutes of madness. Firstly Anderlecht were allowed a goal thanks to a comedy of errors when it looked like Dawson, Jenas and Zokora were saying “After you”. Goor scored when the short cross from the right seemed to rebound off him into goal rather than it being subject to a conscious effort on his part. Almost immediately, Berbatov and Jenas played the ball superbly into the area, and as Jenas was about to pull the trigger, he was taken down. The referee pointed to the spot, and before and after the penalty booked a trio of Anderlecht dissenters. Berbatov sent the keeper the wrong way with a pause in his run-up, and hit the ball to the keeper’s right.
Bent was replaced by Defoe but before he got into the game, Robinson made that fantastic close range save after 76 minutes when a goal seemed certain by substitute Thereau. Lee was stretchered off and replaced by Stalteri, when Spurs had been ready to insert Boateng. Defoe had two efforts on goal. One followed more Malbranque industry and a Berbatov lay-off, and the other was deflected by a defender and tipped over for a corner by Zitka. Five minutes before the end, Berbatov tried a solo effort, but his shot was saved with a dive to the left.
The atmosphere was fairly hot between the two sets of fans, although the event was well-policed and there were no problems that I know of, apart from the missile throwing. The home support was certainly hostile to English players such as Robinson and Lennon, to any Spurs player subject to foul play, and particularly to the referee, who certainly showed no favour to Anderlecht.
Socially, it has been a great visit to the Belgian Capital, which has been very hospitable, and where the Christmas season was evident in the markets and light-show in Grand Place.
Now we return to the reality of a battle for league points on Sunday. The good news is that despite Lee having been stretchered off and Chimbonda hobbling at the end, they are both fit to play.
UEFA CUP ROUND TWO
GROUP G TABLE (06.12.07)
POS P W D L F-A GD Pts
1 Spurs 4 2 1 1 7-5 2 7
2 Getafe 3 2 0 1 5-4 1 6
3 Anderlecht 3 1 2 0 4-2 2 5
4 H. Tel-Aviv 3 1 0 2 2-5 -3 3
5 AaB 3 0 1 2 4-6 -2 1