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Spurs v Benfica, 13.03.14

EUROPA LEAGUE ROUND OF 16 (1ST LEG)
THURSDAY 13TH MARCH, 2014
(8.05 PM)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (0) BENFICA 3 (1)

Spurs scorer:-
Eriksen, 64

Benfica scorers:-
Rodrigo, 29
Luisao, 58, 83

Attendance:- 34,283

Referee:- Jonas Eriksson
Assistants:- Mathias Klasenius & Daniel Warnmark
Additional assistants:- Stefan Johannesson & Markus Strombergsson
Fourth official:- Magnus Sjoblom
(All officials from Sweden)

Teams:-
Spurs (4-4-2):- Lloris; Walker (sub Rose, 76), Kaboul (Capt.), Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Paulinho, Sandro (sub Bentaleb, 82), Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane (sub Soldado, 75)

Subs not used:- Friedel; Fryers; Townsend, Chadli

Booked:- Sandro (foul on Sulejmani), Vertonghen (foul on Gaitan)

Benfica (4-2-3-1):- Oblak; Silvio, Luisao (Capt), Garay, Siqueira; Amorim, Fejsa; Markovic, Rodrigo (sub Lima, 87), Sulejmani (sub Perez, 66); Cardozo (sub Gaitan, 65)

Subs not used:- Artur; Jardel, Almeida; Djuricic

Booked:- Silvio (foul on Kane), Amorim (foul on Naughton)

I told you they were good, didn’t I?

Some people scoffed when I tweeted last week about Benfica’s terrific unbeaten record, which now extends to one of 24 matches, 22 of which have been won, and two of which have been drawn. Spurs did become only the second team to score against the Portuguese side in their last 17 games, but that was not good enough, as Spurs were simply out-classed and overwhelmed. Benfica’s team has class, but it seems their manager – Jorge Jesus – does not, as he derisively waved three fingers at Spurs head coach Tim Sherwood when the Benfica captain scored his second goal to make it 3-1. Spurs have a veritable mountain to climb next week. With Arsenal coming on Sunday, and players such as Walker and Sandro key injury doubts, our season is folding before our very eyes, if it has not already folded. Still, at least our ticket prices have been frozen for next term, eh?

One selection by Sherwood caused raised eyebrows, with Soldado left on the bench and Harry Kane preferred for a role behind Adebayor. Kane did show some useful touches in the middle, but was ultimately found out when his second half mistake led to a Benfica corner and Luisao’s first goal in front of a mass of Benfica fans in the lower tier. By now the Benfica fans had been discovered in various pockets of the ground, even at the back of the “Members’ Stand”. How does that happen?

The “Can’t Smile Without You” surfing flag was displayed prominently in a static position in the south-east corner of the ground, making one think of the late Darren Alexander, who as Spurs Trust co-chairman had so keenly promoted the idea of the flag, the subject of which was chosen after a poll of fans. Darren hasn’t missed much quality Spurs football so far, but those of us who knew him are all missing him, that’s for sure.

Benfica were very fluid in their formation and style, with both Rodrigo and Cardozo getting forward a lot of the time. There is a lot of quality in their side, not least the strong central defenders, against whom Adebayor made so little headway, and the pacy 20 year old Serb Lazar Markovic, who showed the ability to race away from Spurs defenders with ease. Sadly, too many of the Spurs team looked under par, but it would appear that Walker and Sandro are still carrying injuries. I couldn’t help thinking that Aaron Lennon used to have the sort of pace that Markovic showed, but in this game, he struggled to get past his marker.

Sandro got a booking after only 8 minutes, and has seen yellow in each of the four games he has played since his return on 27th February. He’s only played 90 minutes in one of those games too. There was little action of note in the first half, truth be told. Paulinho did spark a move down the right side after 14 minutes, with a ball to Eriksen, who passed inside to Sandro, who fired over. Most of the play was in the Benfica half, but Spurs had nothing to show for it, and Benfica were just getting our measure and biding their time before breaking with effect. Markovic got behind the defence after 27 minutes, but Spurs managed to clear. Then midfielder Amorim sent Rodrigo away goalside of Naughton. Rodrigo homed in on goal, and finished low to the right of Lloris.

Adebayor had a wonderful chance to equalise early in the second half. Paulinho and Eriksen again had been the creators. Eriksen did well, despite being out-numbered by the orange shirted Benfica defence, getting the ball to Adebayor who was towards the right of the box, and had beaten any offside appeal. Sadly, Adebayor pushed his shot wide of the post across goal. Spurs never had such a good chance again in the game.

Harry Kane chipped an excellent ball across the field to Lennon, who worked his way and hit a left foot shot, which the goalkeeper held. Sadly, a Kane error at the other end, where he was caught in possession led to a corner when Lloris tipped over Amorim’s shot. Sadly from the corner, Luisao stole in at the near post to head home.

Spurs did get a goal back with an excellent free kick by Eriksen, after Harry Kane had been fouled as he approached the left side of the area. Eriksen swung a right footed kick inside the goalkeeper’s right post. The Benfica coach made a couple of changes with Gaitan coming on for Cardozo, and Perez for Sulejmani. Spurs played with just 10 men on the pitch as Adebayor received treatment on the touchline.

After another foul on Kane, and another Eriksen free kick, Kaboul got a header into the danger zone, but it was collected by Oblak. Kaboul was doing his best to inspire his team-mates, making a great run from the back, feeding the ball to Lennon, who was unable to get a cross past the defence. Spurs had an escape after Vertonghen misjudged the bounce of the ball, and Lloris had to come to the rescue at the expense of a corner.

Now Sherwood made a couple of changes. Soldado replaced Kane, and Danny Rose replaced Kyle Walker who was running off somewhat hampered in his movement. Rose took over at left back, and Naughton moved to the right. Spurs’ last change was Bentaleb for Sandro. The game, and probably the tie was taken beyond Spurs’ reach after a great run by Markovic which attracted a foul and free kick, taken by Gaitan. Garay had a shot at goal, which was well saved by Lloris at his left post, but there was Luisao to sweep the ball home for a convincing 3-1 scoreline.

Lloris even had to make two more good saves in the remainder of the game, one of which was from Siqueira. There was no arguing with this result, and the quality of the opposition.

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