UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE GROUP A
WEDNESDAY 30TH NOVEMBER, 2011
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) PAOK (SALONICA) 2 (2)
Modric (pen), 39
Referee:- Mr. Hendrikus Nijhuis
Assistants:- Mr. Angelo Boonman & Mr. Rob van de Ven
Fourth Official:- Mr. Jeroen Sanders
Additional Assistants:- Mr. Peter Janssen & Mr. Reinold Wiedermeijer
(All officials from The Netherlands)
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Gallas, Bassong (Capt.), Rose (sub Bale, 62); Lennon, Livermore, Modric, Pienaar (sub Walker, 67); Defoe, Kane (sub Falque, 71)
Subs not used:- Cudicini; Fredericks, Townsend; Carroll
PAOK (4-1-4-1):- Chalkias (Capt.); Etto, Contreras (sub Cirillo, 81), Malezas, Stafylidis; Garcia; Salpingidis, Lazar (sub Arias, 83), Fotakis, Georgiadis (sub Sznaucner, 62); Athanasiadis
Subs not used:- Kresic; Balafas, Papazoglou, Ivic
Booked:- Athanasiadis (foul on bale)
Sent off:- Stafylidis (deliberate handball on goal-line, 38)
The answer is “Not very much”
In my match preview, I posed the question “How much do we want this?”. Well, the answer, at least based upon the first period of this game was an emphatic “Not very much”. Despite the strengthening of the usual Europa League team with the presence of Corluka, Modric, Lennon, Pienaar and Defoe, Spurs could not muster the level of interest and application required to keep them in the second grade European competition. By the way he surrendered his territory for the second goal, Vedran Corluka has already packed his bags to find new pastures. Despite a massive second half effort to find a way round the packed PAOK 10-man defence in the second half, Spurs could not even test the Greek goalkeeper enough, let alone find a way past him.
I know the club stopped selling tickets a couple of days before this game for safety reasons, but many Spurs fans cannot be bothered to pay to watch this competition or a less than full strength Spurs team. On the other hand the PAOK fans that did fill their official allocation, and the 1000 that were locked outside, made the same amount of noise as the home fans which had packed their stadium in September. They celebrated the result with gusto, having qualified for the next phase of the competition with their win. There were also pockets of Greek fans around the ground, who celebrated more discretely.
PAOK were missing their top scorer Vierinha, but otherwise fielded a strong side, set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Garcia their holding midfielder. The visitors hit Spurs with an early goal after Gallas over-ran the ball about 40 yards out. The ball was sent to Georgiadis on the PAOK left flank. He crossed and Salpingidis had an easy header beyond Gomes’ right hand. PAOK were playing towards their supporters who leapt and shouted with delight. They were even more delighted in the 13th minute, when the lead was increased. Corluka had been involved in a Spurs attack which had broken down, but he was back in position, but not alert enough as that man Georgiadis again received the ball, and was able to cross with luxurious space to the far post where Athanasiadis had an easy finish past Gomes’ left hand.
It looked as if Spurs might have down better with more of their youngsters such as substitutes Fredericks, Townsend and Carroll. After all, a young Spurs side did manage a draw over in Greece. Corluka’s staleness had been cruelly exposed. Kane was not showing, and now the Greek side could get back in numbers to protect their two goal lead. Defoe had a pop after 18 minutes, but hit the ball wide. Kane scuffed a chance after Pienaar had threaded a decent ball to him, and had also failed to take advantage of a Lennon ball a minute earlier. Five minutes later, Kane had given Defoe a chance from distance, which the goalkeeper pushed out for a corner. From the corner, taken by Modric, Corluka had a header cleared by Stafylidis, who was then adjudged to have handled Kane’s follow-up shot on the line. The referee showed no hesitation in showing the Greek number 3 a straight red card. Modric coolly slotted home the penalty to the goalie’s left-hand corner.
Modric led another attack, which ended in a couple of blocked shots by Corluka, an attempt by Defoe that was blocked and a shot by Pienaar that went over. After the break, Defoe prodded in a Modric free kick after Pienaar had been fouled, but Defoe was offside. Five minutes later, Modric sent a great ball from a central position to Danny Rose, whose deep cross was headed over by Kane. Corluka crossed from the right and Pienaar hit his shot wide after 56 minutes. A Kane shot was blocked and Livermore won a corner.
After 62 minutes, Harry Redknapp started to add one or two more big guns. Maybe we should have started with them. Bale came on for Rose, and initially took the left back position. Nevertheless Gareth won a corner, taken by Modric, after which Livermore hit his shot wide. Now Walker came on for Pienaar, and Corluka moved to left back, with Bale in front of him. Walker crossed from the right and Defoe’s glanced header was cleared to the feet of Bale who skied his shot.
Falque replaced Kane and after 76 minutes had a shot which was cleared on the line by Contreras. Defoe then challenged the same player for the ball on the line, but the ball ran clear and Contreras was left on the floor. In the confusion that followed, Defoe did put the ball in the net, but the officials did not allow the goal, presumably for a delayed decision against Defoe in that challenge on Contreras.
It was all one-way traffic, but the ten man defensive dome fought bravely and successfully. Falque put a shot wide after another Lennon cross, and then Defoe headed a Lennon cross which the keeper pushed over the bar. A Bale free kick took a deflection through the wall, which took the power out of the shot, and allowed the keeper to easily pick up.
Despite the pressure, PAOK survived. Spurs now need a minor miracle to qualify for the Round of 32. They need PAOK to beat Rubin Kazan, whilst we beat Shamrock by at least 4 goals. We’re not going to be sending a team to Dublin to do that, are we?
The bottom line is that the club has not shown enough interest in the competition, and last night some of the experienced players did not show the necessary desire until too late. Why should we be bothered? Because, as fans we hate to see our team lose, that’s why. Still, as long as our fine Premier League form continues, we’ll be happy, won’t we?
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