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Spurs v Slavia Prague, 21.02.08

UEFA CUP ROUND OF 32 2ND LEG
THURSDAY 21ST FEBRUARY, 2008
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) SLAVIA PRAGUE 1 (0)
Spurs win 3-2 on aggregate

Spurs scorer:-
O’Hara, 7

Slavia Prague scorer:-
Krajcik, 51

Referee: - Mr. J. Eriksson (Sweden)

Attendance: - 34, 224

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Tainio, Kaboul, Woodgate, Chimbonda (sub Malbranque, 60); Lennon (sub Jenas, 69), Huddlestone, Zokora, O’Hara; Berbatov (sub Keane, 46), Bent
(Keane took over as Captain)
Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee, Rocha; Taarabt

Booked: - O’Hara (time wasting)

Slavia Prague (4-1-4-1):- Vorel; Drizdal (sub Volesak, 80), Latka, Brabec (Capt.), Hubacek; Suchy; Krajcik (sub Belaid, 86), Kalivoda (sub Ivana, 46), Cerny, Pudil; Strihavka

Subs not used: - Vaniak; Tavares; Sourek

Booked: - Krajcik; Pudil; Ivana

It was a frustrating night for Spurs fans, but ultimately a case of “Job Done” for Juande Ramos and his team, who negotiated their path through to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup, whilst preserving the fitness and energy levels of key players for Sunday’s Carling Cup Final. It appeared a clever selection by Ramos, that enabled Berbatov and Keane to play just 45 minutes apiece, and also enabled a degree of rest for Chimbonda, Lennon, Jenas and Malbranque, all of whom will no doubt be starting on Sunday. The trouble was that after a fairly bright start with the highlight of Jamie O’Hara’s first senior goal, it seemed that the rest of the Spurs players had too much of an eye on Wembley, as they conceded midfield territory to an energised Prague team that reached a point where they had nothing to lose, thus putting Spurs under a good degree of pressure in the second half.

The big story of the night has to be the return of Paul Robinson, who was given the Captain’s armband for the first half, before the emergence of second in command Robbie Keane. Most observers would have hoped for an inactive night for Robbo, but he was called upon to make a good save with his body in the first half from Jaroslav Cerny, and then in the second a quite superb save with an outstretched left hand from a free kick taken by Ivana. Robinson and his colleagues might have been caught on the hop by Slavia’s equaliser on 50 minutes, but the England International keeper had surely done enough to secure his start for Sunday’s prestigious game.

Ledley King was rested completely and we wait to see whether our skipper can play on Sunday.

Teemu Tainio took up the right back position, with Kaboul returning to central defence, moving Woodgate to the left side of these two. Chimbonda played at left back, where he might have to play on Sunday, assuming that UEFA Cup-tied Alan Hutton wins a place. With Jenas rested, the central midfield consisted of Tom Huddlestone and Didier Zokora, whilst Jamie O’Hara played on the left flank. Berbatov was partnered by Darren Bent, who is still struggling to establish his position.

After a good start, in which he did spray some good passes around, Huddlestone faded and was too easily swamped on the ball by the packed Prague midfield. Zokora made one or two great tackles to retrieve a ball that would otherwise be lost, and also led one attack with a good charge upfield, but he too made insufficient impact in the middle. Even when he got on after 69 minutes, Jermaine Jenas was employed down the right flank.

Tainio went down in the first minute under a strong challenge, but soon recovered. Spurs took a vital early lead for a two goal aggregate difference after Bent had chased a Robinson kick and forced a throw near the corner flag. After the throw, O’Hara supported the attack in the middle and received a pass back from Berbatov, before despatching a deflected shot past goalkeeper Vorel in front of the Park Lane end. Jamie raced to the corner flag to share his ecstasy with the assembled fans.

In truth, there was little to excite in the game, and 20 minutes had passed before the next decent shot on goal, by Huddlestone, saved by Vorel. A minute later, O’Hara was waiting for a long ball from the right and hit a low shot across the goalmouth, which must have got a slight defensive touch, as a corner was awarded. O’Hara was involved after 28 minutes finding Bent with a good cross. Bent rose high to hit a looping header that the keeper might have touched onto the bar, before the ball fell in front of the line and was cleared.

Robinson made that important body save when Cerny got the better of Huddlestone as he ran right to left diagonally, before hitting a decent low shot. Robbo didn’t hold the ball, but it went safely clear.

Prague made a substitution at the break, as well as Spurs, with Ivana replacing midfielder Kalivoda. Robbie Keane might have increased the Spurs lead after trying first time shot from a Lennon cross. The shot was a yard or so outside the post. Prague had been getting more possession, but their goal still came out of the blue, as Pudil’s deep cross from the left passed across the area and reached Krajcik, waiting to pounce at the back post.

Chimbonda was replaced by Malbranque and O’Hara fell back to left back. There was a worry for Spurs after 62 minutes, when Cerny’s free kick was headed across the goal by Strihavka, met by Drizdal, but hit straight into Robinson’s arms. Five minutes later, poor defending by Tainio led to another chance for the visitors. Tainio had tried another poor defensive back header, which only landed at the feet of Pudil, as had happened last week in Prague. Pudil crossed and Strihavka hit a shot across Robinson’s right arm, hitting the post. The Slavia fans were entitled to crow about their team’s performance, whilst the home crowd became quiet on the whole, whilst rattled by this close shave.

When Jenas replaced Lennon he showed plenty of energy and determination down the right flank, taking some of the pressure off Spurs. Jenas drew the second Prague booking of the night, when fouled by Pudil.

Spurs were struggling to find passes and also failing to ease the pressure brought to bear. Robinson’s great save came from a 75th minute free kick. Cerny ran over the ball, and Ivana hit a beauty that Robbo saw and parried away with his outstretched left hand. Tainio had rather needlessly conceded this kick too. Tainio redeemed himself somewhat, getting forward to receive the ball from Jenas who had won it after a good battling tackle. Tainio found Bent with a good pass. Bent tuned and shot in one motion, seeing his shot deflected up onto the top of the bar and out for a corner.

The pressure eased towards the end, but Spurs had enough desperate defending to do to make it an uncomfortable night for their fans.

Spurs will now face PSV Eindhoven in the last 16, with the first leg being at home on March 6th, and the away leg to be played on either the following Wednesday or Thursday. Be careful with your travel plans!

I confidently predict at least five changes to the Spurs starting line-up on Sunday, and we all expect a different performance against Chelsea. Come on You Spurs!

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

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