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Spurs v Rubin Kazan, 20.10.11


Pavlyuchenko, 33

Attendance:- 24,058

Mr. Manuel Jorge Neves Moreira de Sousa
Assistants:- Mr. J. Cardinal & Mr. J. Ramalho
Fourth Official:- Mr. Rui Silva
Additional assistants:- Mr. V. Dos Santos & Mr. C. Machado

Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Walker, Livermore, Bassong, Rose; Lennon (sub Modric, 73), Sandro (sub Kaboul, 73), Carroll, Giovani (sub Ekotto, 65); Defoe, Pavlyuchenko

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Townsend, Falque, Kane

No bookings

Rubin Kazan (4-2-3-1):- Ryzhikov; Kuzmin, Sharonov (Capt.), Navas, Bocchetti; Natcho, Noboa; Kasaev (sub Martins, 61), Ryazantsev (sub Eremenko, 78), Gokdeniz; Valdez

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

Booked:- Sharonov (foul on Rose), Bocchetti, Eremenko (foul on Rose)

Getting away with it

Harry Redknapp got away with it last night. He got away with making ten team changes, thus protecting his available key players for Sunday’s Premier League clash at Blackburn. Those protected included Younes Kaboul, one of only two fit centre-backs at the club at present. Jake Livermore partnered skipper Sebastien Bassong until Kaboul finally made his entrance, but Younes’ strong and effective defensive skills had everything to do with Spurs protecting their slender lead, gained through a special free kick by their Russian, Roman Pavlyuchenko, against a useful team from his home country.

I always felt that a fairly strong side would be needed to beat this Russian team, who proved that they were perfectly capable of playing some good passing football. Luckily for Spurs though, this is a team which does not appear to have many goals in them. Their top league scorer – Natcho – played at the back of their midfield, and has just 6 goals to his name in 27 league matches. Their main strike player, the Paraguayan Nelson Valdez, has yet to score for his new team. He had a number of decent chances last night, but they were either off target, or held by the in-form Gomes in the Spurs goal. Only in the second half did the visitors revert to an attacking formation, with the familiar name of Obafemi Martins coming on after 61 minutes.

Aaron Lennon started on the right, with Giovani on the left, but it wasn’t long before they were switched to their unnatural sides, and it became a rare sight for a Spurs winger to pass his man on the outside. Perhaps the reason for the switch was that Lennon tracks back more efficiently than Giovani, and Aaron could offer Danny Rose more protection, whilst the feeling may have been Walker could look after himself more. Walker did indeed make some good defensive interventions, but there are still too many occasions when his attacker gets goal-side, which I don’t like to see with such frequency.

Tom Carroll made another Europa league appearance, and has some nice touched, possessing the confidence to play the more difficult and less obvious ball. I felt that he was unable to guard the ball as much as I would have liked last night. Beside him, Sandro made some great ball-winning tackles.

The crowd was under 25,000, and now that the “free games” have gone, loads of season ticket holders seemingly can’t be bothered to make the trip away from their armchairs for this sort of fare. It makes me really wonder if we would fill a 60,000 seater stadium. We love to have a jibe if the Emirates is less than full, but were guilty of it ourselves last night. 1500 of the tickets were given away by Spurs to local people, who had suffered difficulties as a result of the riots. Spurs were also strongly plugging the campaign to support local traders, which struck me as a bit ironic, in view of the fact that Daniel Levy & Co. fought hard to leave the area themselves!

Gomes was in action in the first minute, holding a decent Valdez effort, after a cross from the left. Then Pavlyuchenko gave his countrymen a warning of what he could do with his right foot after going on a run through the middle before hitting a shot that passed wide of the goalkeeper’s right post. There were a handful of Russian fans in the south-west corner cheering their team on. After 7 minutes, Tom Carroll was involved in three attempts to get the ball into the middle, and with the third attempt he did find Giovani in a central position. Gio hit a low shot, which was deflected and held by the Russian keeper.

Valdez had another chance after 11 minutes, heading wide, and then three minutes later Gokdeniz tested Gomes with a good header, which was well saved by our Brazilian keeper, who rarely gets an outing these days. Gokdeniz then got past Danny Rose before crossing to give that man Valdez another opportunity, but his header was looped harmlessly over the goal.

Both Bassong and Livermore sometimes found themselves in midfield positions with the ball, and were happy to move forward to assist an attacking move. Bassong fed Defoe, who hit a shot from the right side that passed wide across the goal. The Rubin left back got past Walker to the bye-line and cut the ball back for Valdez, who hit a deft shot that Gomes saved. After 31 minutes, Livermore did well to win the ball in the middle and sent a good long ball to Lennon, who was on the left. Danny Rose had made a run inside, received the ball and was fouled on the edge of the box by Sharonov. There was some delay, and a yellow card or two, before Pavlyuchenko surprised us all, and the Russian team with a superbly taken right footed free kick that went into the net off the top left stanchion. In a game of moderate excitement, the goal alone was almost worth the admission money!

At the other end, Jermain Defoe was perhaps harshly penalised for handball, when he was just a couple of yards away from his opponent. The Italian left back Bocchetti tried a 35 yard shot, which landed on top of Gomes’ net. There was one more chance before the break, after a great winning tackle by Sandro, before the ball was fed to Pavlyuchenko, whose powerful shot was blocked for a corner. Pavlyuchenko won a corner soon after the break, taken by Giovani. Bassong had a good downward header blocked in front of goal. At the other end, Gomes was in action having to push out a deflected shot for a Rubin corner. Five minutes later, Gomes made a good save, but it came after a thrown ball to Lennon, who was surrounded by the opposition, leading to the ball coming straight back at the keeper.

Martins came on and the visitors adopted a more offensive approach. Spurs had some hard defending to do after Danny Rose lost the ball near the bye-line, but one way or another, Spurs were getting away with it! Now Ekotto came on for Giovani, and he replaced Rose, who was pushed forward to play on the left of midfield, with Lennon now on the right. Ryazantsev got inside Walker, who gave him just a little too much space, but the shot was quite weak, and easily covered by Gomes.

Carroll fed Lennon with a good ball down the line and Aaron made a run around the defence, crossing for Danny Rose to try a header, which won Spurs a corner.

Sandro was replaced by Kaboul, and Modric took over from Lennon. Carroll was moved out towards the right, although now we had our first choice (available) back four, Walker was given more licence to get forward down the right flank. With Rose freely attacking down the left, Spurs looked a more balanced outfit. Rose was drawing fouls by the opposition too, which led to a yellow card for substitute Eremenko. Kaboul’s skills were never needed more than after 82 minutes, when he made a great saving tackle, just as Obafemi Martins was about to pull the trigger.

At the other end, Defoe sent Rose away on a run that took him all the way into the penalty area, where he seemed to be fouled. The referee awarded Spurs a corner, but I think Rose might even have had the last touch. Ekotto tried a long shot which the keeper held on the first bounce. Three minutes from time, Walker conceded a free kick just outside the box. Noboa took the kick, and Gomes held. At the other end, Ekotto sent Rose away on a run down the line, and Spurs won a corner, but in the end they were happy to see out the three minutes of added time.

The win puts Spurs on top of their group, with a tricky return match in Russia to come in two weeks’ time. They look on target to qualify for the second round, despite fielding weakened teams, but I’d like them to qualify in first place to ensure a favourable draw in the second phase of the competition. A home win against PAOK (who beat Shamrock last night) and away to the Irish team should ensure qualification as Group A winners.

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