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Inter v Spurs, 14.03.13

EUROPA LEAGUE
Round of 16 (second leg)
THURSDAY 14TH MARCH, 2013
7pm (C.E.T.)
FC INTERNAZIONALE MILANO 4(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0)
(a.e.t - score after 90 mins 3-0)
(aggregate score 4-4. Spurs win on away goals rule)

Inter Scorers:-
Cassano, 20
Palacio, 52
Gallas (o.g), 75
Alvarez, 110

Spurs scorer:-
Adebayor, 96

Attendance:- 18,241

Referee:- Mr. Ivan Bebek
Assistants:- Mr. Tomislav Petrovic & Mr. Miro Grgic
Additional assistants:- Mr. Domagoj Vuckov & Mr. Goran Gabrilo
Fourth official:- Mr. Dalibor Conjar
(All officials from Croatia)

Teams:-
Inter (4-1-3-2):- Handanovic; Jonathan (sub Ranocchia, 108), Juan, Chivu, Zanetti (Capt.); Kovacic (sub Benassi, 79); Gargano, Guarin(sub Alvarez, 71), Cambiasso; Palacio, Cassano

Subs not used:- Belec; Pasa, Belloni, Colombi

Booked:- Juan (foul on Adebayor)

Spurs (4-4-2); Friedel; Walker, Gallas (Capt.), Vertonghen, Naughton (sub Caulker, 104); Dembele, Livermore (sub Lennon, 70), Parker, Sigurdsson; Defoe (sub Holtby, 56), Adebayor

Subs not used:- Lloris; Assou-Ekotto; Huddlestone, Carroll

Booked:- Livermore (time wasting), Friedel (time wasting), Walker (unsporting behaviour), Adebayor (foul on Gargano)

Thank heavens for the away goal, eh?

In what was nearly a nightmare scenario, with Spurs looking every bit like surrendering their commanding 3-0 lead, Emmanuel Adebayor eventually scored the single goal that gave us a passage to the quarter-final stage of the Europa League.

It took until the 96th minute though, after Inter, who played as well this week, as they had played badly last, scored the three goals without reply that meant we had extra time.

Late substitute Ricardo Alvarez's goal made it 4-4 on aggregate, and Spurs had some tense moments to survive before they could finally celebrate their "win".

With Gareth Bale suspended (and sorely missed), and Aaron Lennon held on the bench, Andre Villas-Boas went with the same midfield as he had at Anfield, with Jermain Defoe partnering the returning Adebayor.

At the back, AVB opted for Naughton instead of Assou-Ekotto. Gallas captained the side, and was to have two or three moments of disaster in this game.

Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni had fielded a weakened side in Sunday's home defeat by Bologna, but went all out for a big win, with both Palacio and Cassano up front, supported by three in midfield, and just the one holding midfielder.

Inter's tactics worked a treat. Spurs were closed down in all areas, and often struggled to move forward, often finding themselves facing the wrong way. Inter also managed to find space on the Spurs flanks, and get their strikers goal-side too often.

The game was painful to watch until that Adebayor goal, and it was also very sad to see less than 20,000 in the massive stadium.

Spurs had already suffered threats by the two strikers before Vertonghen made a great tackle to halt Guarin's advance into the right side of the box. Sigurdsson had already had an attacking free kick, and almost teed up Defoe with another cross, but it was too close to Handanovic. Livermore got the ball to Adebayor on the right, and he fed it to Defoe, whose shot was deflected fora corner.

Friedel was down well to hold a Cassano shot after 12 minutes.

Another feature of this game was one of the most biased and inept refereeing performances I have seen in a long time. Jake Livermore was booked as early as the 13th minute for time-wasting. Friedel got a similar booking two minutes before the break. Mr. Bebek looked a real homer, and ignored many apparent fouls on Spurs players. Maybe a couple of his decisions went against the home side, including a penalty shout against Gallas. However, this does not detract from a severely under par performance by Spurs.

Inter took the lead in the 20th minute when Palacio advanced into the right side of the Spurs area, then chipped a short cross to the back post, where Cassano headed home.

After a Dembele ball to Sigurdsson the keeper saved Sigurdsson's effort and Inter cleared. Palacio beat the Spurs high defensive line to the ball and had a clear shot at goal, lifting the ball over Friedel, but his shot rebounded off the bar.

Dembele sent Defoe away down the right side, but Adebeyor failed with the cross. Kyle Walker had a a header go wide across the goal after a Sigurdsson free kick. Palacio got the better of Vertonghen, but his cross passed safely across theSpurs goalmouth.

Adebayor had a golden opportunity before the break, when he was one on one, but he lifted the shot well over.

Five minutes after the interval, it was Adebayor making a great run down the right, and Vertonghen getting forward to receive his pass, but Inter defended well and cleared.

Panic started to set in when Inter scored a second goal, after Palacio got though and fired low past Friedel from the left of the area. Dembele had lost possession in the midfield, and as a result, Gallas had been caught out of position, allowing Palacio to get goalside. Inter had their tails up.

Jermain Defoe was replaced by Lewis Holtby, but to be honest, he made no more impact. Initially, Holtby took up the right side position, and Dembele supported Adebayor, but only when Lennon replaced Livermore and Dembele reverted to his traditional central midfield position did we look more balanced. Dembele's work rate and overall performance was clearly the outstanding effort by a Spurs man.

Friedel made a good save when Chivu burst forward. Things got worse in the 75th minute when that referee awarded what looked like a doubtful free kick just outside the Spurs area. Cassano took the kick, which appeared to take a little deflection, but then took a big deflection, as Gallas put the ball into his own net. An embarrassing defeat beckoned, but Spurs not only held out, but started to look brighter than the flagging home team.

Naughton hit a powerful shot from 25 yards that Handanovic gladly pushed round for a rare Spurs corner. In added time, after a mistake by Gallas, Cambiasso had a chance to claim a heroic victory, but he fired wide.

Spurs started extra time well, with Adebayor, Holtby, Parker and Lennon all involved in a nice move that ended with Lennon getting into the box and crossing for Vertonghen, whose header was well saved, at the cost of a corner. Spurs had three corners, but Gallas headed the last of these wide.

In the 96th minute, Spurs got the precious goal that left Inter needing to score twice to go through. Dembele made a driving run to a similar position from which he scored against Lyon. He hit a shot which Handanovic could only parry, and from which Adebayor managed to get a foot to the ball with two defenders in tow, hitting the net to cause wild celebrations by the Spurs team, and fans.

It wasn't over yet though, as Friedel made good saves from Palacio in extra-time first half added time, then an even better diving save to deny Cassano after the break. Friedel couldn't stop Alvarez firing home from the right of the box, after a ball from the left with 10 minutes left, but now it was a case of Spurs holding out.

At the final whistle several Spurs players collapsed with exhaustion and joy. Some Spurs fans near me didn't realise that the away goal counted in added time, and didn't cheer significantly until they realised the game really was over.

So, it was not a glorious victory, and Inter have scored 4 at home against us for the second consecutive time. They and their fans will be so disappointed not to have gone through after such a come-back and their team's performance, but Spurs will surely gain in strength after this experience.

AVB will be able to field a different defence on Sunday for Fulham, and with Bale back, and Lennon protected, I am sure we will see a good home performance before the International break.

Spurs have now played 10 Europa League games and have a potential 5 more to come. Could their name be on the trophy?

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