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Panathinaikos v Spurs, 04.10.12

EUROPA LEAGUE GROUP J
(Match 2)
THURSDAY 4th OCTOBER, 2012
(8 p.m)
PANATHINAIKOS 1 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)

Panathinaikos scorer:-
Toche, 77

Spurs scorer:-
Dawson, 35

Attendance:- 23,000

Referee:- Florian Meyer
Assistants:- Holger Henschel & Christophe Bornhost
Fourth official:- Jan-Hendrik Salver
Additional assistants:- Christian Dingert & Tobias Welz
(All officials from Germany)

Teams:-
Panathinaikos (4-2-3-1/4-1-4-1):- Karnezis; Seitaridis, Triantafyllopoulos, Pinto, Vyntra (Capt.), Marinos (sub Sissoko, 46), Vitolo; Owusu-Abeyie (sub Chouchoumis, 90), Zeca, Christodoulopoulos (sub Mavrias, 85); Toche

Subs not used:- Kotsolis; Lagos; Fornaroli, Barbarouses

Booked:- Vyntra (foul on Lennon)

Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Walker, Dawson (Capt.), Caulker, Vertonghen; Dembele, Huddlestone ( sub Sandro, 81); Lennon (sub Townsend, 75), Dempsey (sub Sigurdsson, 66), Bale; Defoe

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Gallas; Falque, Mason

Booked:- Bale, Townsend

No medals for this performance in the Olympic Stadium.

My biggest fears before the game were realised. Both 19 year old Konstanstinos Triantafyllopoulos and attacking midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos played for Panathinaikos! Still, I only have to write about the game, not commentate, and I believe British commentators refer to these players by their first name only.

The bottom line really is that Spurs under-achieved here in the Olympic Stadium, which was sparsely occupied by only 23,000 fans. Whilst the small army of Spurs fans was flanked by lines of riot-clothed police, and subjected to rigorous searches entering the stadium, the home fans had no such attention, and as is par for the course, they lit several flares during the game.

The Spurs contingent was boosted by the ever-enthusiastic Hellenic Spurs, who I have had the good fortune to meet, and with whom our group spent a very pleasant few hours before the game. We also met Colin, a Spurs member who lives on one of the Greek Islands and made a 20 minute flying hop to get to Athens.

Spurs fielded a strong team, with only three changes from the side which had started in the fantastic 3-2 win at Old Trafford. Lloris came in for Friedel. Michael Dawson played and captained the side, and Tom Huddlestone took Sandro's place.

Perhaps those changes ultimately led to the less convincing team performance. Lloris's handling was not as assured as it had been in his previous appearance; the understanding between the defenders did not always look so good; and Tom Huddlestone was great at passing, but not so great at catching up with an attacker breaking from midfield, or indeed tackling.

Panathinaikos were playing without their captain (Katsouranis), who they have sacked. Mind you, he hadn't been playing for a few weeks. Hence the introduction of that man Konstanstinos Triantafyllopoulos, who played in central defence. The home fans cheered their players, but booed their manager when his name was announced. Perhaps they will be happier now, after a good team result, against a top team, such as Spurs.

Spurs started like a team that was going to over-run the hosts, with Bale running at full pelt down the left and crossing to the feet of Jermain Defoe, from whose feet the ball was cleared at the near post.

Spurs then had two corners in quick succession, but did not get the early goal that might have led to an opening of the flood-gates.

Panathinaikos found their feet, and did want to attack in front of their home crowd. Right back Seitaridis made a great run down the right flank, and received a Huddlestone-like pass, before hitting a cross/shot, which Lloris could only grasp at the second attempt.

Bale made a run again, after Spurs broke out of defence, and won a free kick, after what looked like a handball decision, against the Greek side. Dempsey took the kick which passed just over the goalkeeper's right corner. Defoe got the ball to the bye-line on the left, before crossing to Lennon, from whom the ball was cleared. Lennon was subsequently released through the middle, and got a shot in, but there was absolutely no power in that effort.

Lloris had to be quick, when he was left exposed by the defence to a Panathinaikos runner, and just managed to save at the player's feet.

Spurs took the lead after another free kick conceded for a foul on Vertonghen. Huddlestone took the kick, and Michael Dawson stepped towards the near post to glance home a header. Dawson dived to the ground in celebration at his first goal of the season, on only his second full appearance.

Dembele made a great steal of the ball in the middle and sent Bale away. Gareth had Vertonghen making a run to his left, but went for goal, forcing a good save by the keeper, happy to concede a corner. Defoe fed the ball back to Huddlestone on another attack, and Tom's shot was also saved.

Bale got a booking for his attempt to stop a Panathinaikos run down the right flank. After the free kick, Lloris made another save.

Panathinaikos made a substitution at the break, replacing the defensive midfielder Marinos with 20 year old Ibrahim Sissoko, who played on the flank, and ran at the Spurs defence in a more attacking 4-1-4-1.

Spurs had the first significant attack though, after another great piece of midfield play by Dembele, feeding Bale, who this time did use Vertonghen on his left. The ball was fed quickly to Defoe, but he was offside.

Kyle Walker was guilty of leaving too much space at times and former Arsenal junior Quincy Owusu-Abeyie was round him too easily, before Dawson was happy to concede a corner.

Spurs broke from defence after Panathinaikos had been baying for a handball decision. It was Dempsey who sent Defoe away, but he fired high. Walker did redeem himself at the back, with a good saving tackle, deep inside the Spurs area.

At times, Spurs were doing well in midfield, hunting in packs and managing to come out with the ball, but at others they were leaving too many dangerous spaces, exploited by the likes of the substitute Sissoko.

Dempsey had a decent right footed shot that was saved by Karnezis with a dive to the right. Dawson picked the ball up near the half-way line to the right, and made a run, before releasing Bale, whose shot was just wide. Dempsey was replaced by Sigurdsson, who was not so effective.

A free kick by Toche passed wide. The forward seemed more interested in the referee's insistence to move the placement back. Defoe worked some space for himself towards the right of the defence, and hit a shot that was deflected for a corner.

Lennon was cynically fouled just outside the box by skipper Vyntra, who got injured in the process. That was Lennon's last action, as he was replaced by Townsend.

By now the Spurs intention was to hold on to the one-goal lead, but they failed and the defence was caught out by a cross from the right, which cut through. Caulker might have intercepted, but failed, and the ball reached Toche, who fired home via Lloris's right post.

Spurs couldn't muster another attack, and were grateful for two blocks in the area In added time.

Spurs did not play as well in the second half, as they had in the first. Maybe a few legs were getting tired. Maybe they thought they could hold on to the lead. Ultimately they under-achieved.

On the plus side, Spurs are still unbeaten since Day One of the season. The next three Europa League results will be important. Lazio beat Maribor, so both those teams are above us, with a win each to their name.

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