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Rubin Kazan v Spurs, 03.11.11

(Game 4)

Scorer:- Natcho, 55

Attendance:- 20,000

Referee:- Florian Meyer
Assistants:- Holger Henschel & Christoph Bornhorst
Fourth Official:- Babak Rafati
Additional Assistants:- Peter Sippel & Markus Wingenbach
(All officials from Germany)

Rubin Kazan (4-2-3-1):- Ryzhikov; Kaleshin, Navas, Sharonov (Capt.), Bocchetti; Noboa, Natcho; Kasaev (sub Ansaldi, 83), Ryazantsev (sub A. Eremenko, 89), Gokdeniz Karadeniz; Martins (sub Valdez, 65)

Subs not used:- Arlauskis; Kuzmin, Kverkvelia; Orazsakhedov

Booked:- Ryazantsev (foul on Pienaar), Eremenko (foul on Kane)

Spurs (4-4-2):- Cudicini; Fredericks, Gallas (Capt.) (sub Parrett, 73), Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Livermore, Carroll, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko (sub Kane, 75)
(Armband to Bassong)

Subs not used:- Gomes; Stewart; Nicholson, Pritchard; Lancaster

Booked:- Bassong (foul on Ryazantsev), Defoe (Dissent)

Edged out in Russia

Like your reporter, the Spurs starting line-up for Sunday’s game at Craven Cottage had their feet up at home watching what was hardly even a second string team being edged out by Rubin Kazan’s first team in deepest Russia, 2000 miles away in cold and damp conditions. The Spurs line-up even had seven changes from that which played the home match against this opposition. Harry Redknapp was presumably watching from afar too, as he is recovering in hospital after his “minor” heart surgery yesterday. The Spurs policy since qualifying for the group stages of the Europa League has been clear; to preserve their best players for the Premier League, in the hope of qualifying for next year’s Champions League.

The fact that Spurs were only edged out is very much due to the great performance of Carlo Cudicini in goal. He made many precious and several great saves to keep the score down to one. However, even he could not stop what was an unstoppable free kick by Kazan’s top scorer Natcho in the 55th minute. What could have been prevented was Bassong’s rash decision to try and carry the ball out of the penalty area, and when challenged to commit the foul which gave the home side the free kick, just outside the box. So, both games were decided by a solitary free kick, superbly taken.

Spurs had a few experienced players in the mix. William Gallas also gave quite a heroic performance at the back, especially in the first half, but after 73 minutes, he seemed to decide that enough was enough and came off, replaced by Dean Parrett, who made his Spurs debut in similarly far-flung territory (Donetsk) in February 2009. Parrett went into Livermore’s place in midfield, whilst Jake fell back to central defence.

Steven Pienaar was another player to make his first competitive appearance of the season, and he didn’t look too match fit either, but he did make it to the final whistle. His job was partly to support Andros Townsend who was at left back, and that flank was often chosen by the home side for their attacks, often with success. On the other side, rookie Ryan Fredericks struggled against the experience and guile of Kasaev (a bit of an Andy Reid look-alike), but when going forward, often combined well with Yago Falque. Falque was one of our more impressive forward players, winning some battles for the ball, and delivering some decent passes for Defoe and Pavlyuchenko. Sadly, Pavlyuchenko was another experienced player whose touch often let Spurs down, and in the second half, both he and Defoe were guilty of straying offside on some occasions when either Carroll or substitute Kane got a decent ball through. The fact is though, that Spurs did not force a save from the Rubin Kazan goalkeeper, and the closest they came was probably when Fredericks hit the side netting.

The only excitement in the early stages, when Spurs were simply trying to keep possession, was a one-man pitch invasion, which seemed to be halted by Jake Livermore. Spurs were making no headway though, and Kazan favoured the right flank. After 9 minutes there had been no threat to either goal when Livermore nearly lost the ball in the Kazan half, but Falque won it back with a good challenge. He exchanged with Pienaar and had a good shooting position, but the ball was blocked at his feet. Three minutes later Jermain Defoe had a shot from the edge of the box, which was also blocked.

The home support was vocal, and I suspect the atmosphere might have approached that of PAOK at times. I don’t recall the cameras focusing upon the hardy band of Tottenham support. The Spurs defence were strong against the threat of Kasaev after 13 minutes. Falque did well to shield a ball in the face of a strong challenge, kept possession and then fed Pavlyuchenko, who tried a shot from long range, which was well wide. Kasaev tried to thread a ball for Obafemi Martins, but Cudicini was alert and out to pick up the ball. At this time, the Spurs goal had not seriously been threatened.

Gokdeniz Karadeniz crossed from the right and Kasaev carried the ball into the area, but his final touch was not good enough. Spurs then had defensive problems when Bassong had been drawn too far forward and the Spurs left flank was attacked and looked weak. The ball was carried to the bye-line and cut back for Noboa who missed. Cudicini might have got a touch here, as a corner was given. Cudicini soon made another important save from Natcho’s shot from 25 yards out. Carlo then cleared a corner with a second punch as the pressure mounted on the Spurs goal.

Spurs did get the ball to the edge of the Kazan area, but the move broke down when Pienaar lost possession. Falque did well again and fed Pavlyuchenko who was making a bee-line for the box, and seemed to be body-checked, but the referee gave no foul. Yet, Spurs lost out in a similar situation early in the second half. Cudicini made a good save from Ryazantsev’s shot, after the Spurs left flank had again looked exposed. Spurs made a good move out of defence via Tom Carroll, Falque and then Defoe, but Livermore over-hit his attempted pass down the right channel. To be honest, Carroll and Livermore were struggling most of the time against the numbers in midfield, and Spurs in general, when they did have possession were passing backwards or into neutral territory.

Kasaev hit a good cross deep from the left, and Martins should have done better, but he headed wide. Carroll started another good Spurs move from the back with a ball to Pienaar, who in turn fed Defoe with a good ball. Defoe still had work to do to get around the defence, but succeeded. His low powerful cross was too far ahead of Pavlyuchenko.

Kasaev was awarded a free kick just outside the Spurs area, after Pienaar’s foul. Noboa took the kick, which was blocked by the Spurs wall. Fredericks’ effort on goal came after Carroll fed Falque, who passed to Fredericks as he over-lapped. Jermain Defoe was not a happy man when he looked to have been clearly fouled, but all the referee gave was handball as Defoe fell, handling the ball as he assumed a free kick would follow. A free kick did follow at the other end, as Bassong made that rash attempt to play out of the box, and conceded a foul under pressure, earning his yellow card. Defoe argued, probably because he was still upset by the decision that had gone against him, and he also saw yellow for dissent. Natcho lifted the ball over the wall into the net too far to the right of Cudicini for the keeper to stand any chance of a save.

Natcho beat any Spurs offside trap on the hour and fed the ball to Ryazantsev, whose shot was very well saved by the dive of Cudicini. At the other end, another good ball by Carroll gave Falque a run to the bye-line, but he let the ball just go out of play. It was a shame because Defoe did hit the pass into the net. Bocchetti should have scored from the back post after a Natcho free kick from deep on the right, but he fired well over. Gallas decided he had to go, and Spurs had some re-arranging to do. Unfortunately, two or three attempted passes out of defence by Livermore ran straight to Kazan, who came back at Spurs in strength. This also happened when Spurs tried to get forward, but left themselves a little open at the back. Spurs were also guilty of wasting a couple of free kicks in good positions, with either a useless sideways pass, or a Kane shot into the wall. However, Kane did offer some useful touches, after replacing Pavlyuchenko.

Cudicini was kept busy, saving a header by Gokdeniz Karadeniz and a shot by Valdez (still to score for his new club). Spurs best offering came after Defoe passed to Kane who made progress to the left of the Kazan box, before trying to tee up Falque, who was thwarted by the defence before he could get in a shot. Substitute Alexei Eremenko had an eventful few minutes, getting booked for a foul on Pienaar, and having a good 20 yard shot well saved by Spurs’ hero Cudicini.

Unfortunately, Spurs have now fallen to third place in the group, after PAOK won in Dublin against Shamrock Rovers. It is very tight though, with PAOK on 8 points, and Rubin Kazan level on 7 points with Spurs, who now have PAOK at home and Shamrock away. We’ll see then how much Spurs want to make the knock-out stages of this tournament. Hopefully they will win both their games, and hopefully that will be enough to top the group, as a better draw ensues for Group winners.

Europa League Group A
		   P  W  D  L  F-A  GD  PTS
1. PAOK            4  2  2  0  7-4   3   8
2. Rubin Kazan     4  2  1  1  6-3   3   7
3. Spurs           4  2  1  1  4-2   2   7
4. Shamrock Rovers 4  0  0  4  3-11 -9   0     

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