Rovers Give Spurs a Fright
Tottenham Hotspur 3 Shamrock Rovers 1
Scorers: Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Dos Santos
Team: Cudicini; Walker, Corluka, Bassong, Rose (Kane); Lennon (Townsend), Carroll, Livermore, Dos Santos; Pavlyuchenko, Defoe (Falque). Subs (unused): Gomes, Bale, Kaboul, Modric
Tottenham again, fielded a weakened team to face League of Ireland, part-time team, Shamrock Rovers. It did, however, include six players with international experience but only Kyle Walker had played in Saturday's win at Wigan in the Premier League. Aaron Lennon and Danny Rose returned after injury and Jermaine Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko who were unable to play last weekend both started. Tom Carroll retained his place in the Europa 'mid-week' team having excelled in his previous appearances. While Harry Redknapp may have had 'both eyes on the North London derby', he was not taking any chances of there being an upset in this match - his list of substitutes included Gareth Bale, Younes Kaboul and Luka Modric, rather than the youngsters who have appeared in the last two Europa games. This distinguished bench available to firefight any unexpected developments in the game.
|Giovani dos Santos|
Gradually, Tottenham with the bulk of possession had Rovers pinned in their own half but not really causing them any problems, Rovers always had a man available to make a timely tackle or block. Then in the space of three minutes, Spurs had two opportunities to go ahead but goalkeeper Richard Brush came to the rescue. First he deflected a Defoe shot onto the bar and then he saved from Pavlyuchenko. Brush was only playing because of injury to Ryan Thompson but he was putting in a sterling performance. Before half-time Rose hit the bar when a cross was cleared to him on the edge of the box. Then Pavlyuchenko's header from a corner was blocked off the line.
Tottenham had the greater share of possession but had seen chances go begging while Rovers had worked hard and hadn't been overawed, they had played their part in making it an entertaining first half.
Andros Townsend replaced Lennon for the second half and playing on the left he brought added pace to the game and immediately caused the Rovers defence some problems. However, the match continued much as it had done until in the fiftieth minute Rovers were awarded a free-kick thirty yards from goal. Gary McCabe smashed the kick past the wall, Cudicini parried it out of the box but it fell to Pat Sullivan who shot for goal but Stephen Rice flicked the ball past Cudicini and into the net. Rovers' players, management and supporters went delirious - Spurs fans were bemused.
The Rovers support increased their volume even more as they celebrated the goal and urged their team to even greater effort to hold on to the dream. This wasn't going to plan for Tottenham but Harry Redknapp didn't panic - he let the players get on with it and the combination of Rose and Townsend on the left was creating added problems.
For ten minutes Rovers continue to match Spurs, put in tackles and ease the pressure. Then Spurs built up a momentum and pinned Rovers back, they probed right and left, eventually getting Giovani dos Santos free on the left and his cross was headed powerfully past Brush. Level but Spurs weren't finished - two minutes later it was Townsend who made it into the area and crossed. Pavlyuchenko left the ball for Defoe to head into the net.
Even after going behind Rovers looked to take the game to Spurs but four minutes later, Defoe went back into the Spurs half and showing great determination, he battled to keep a ball in that was simply going out for a throw. He set off up the left, past a defender, as others back-pedalled, he cut in towards the centre of the area and as he drew defenders to him he passed to his right and set up the chance for Giovani to score. 3 - 1 to Spurs - Six fateful minutes to shatter a dream and a sigh of relief from Spurs supporters.
The match was now over, Spurs hadn't had to call for re-inforcements from the bench but Rovers continued to give their all. They can all be very proud of their effort and style of play and have been great ambassadors for the League of Ireland.
Shamrock Rovers took all the credit and praise for their performance at White Hart Lane but Tottenham took the three points. Harry Redknapp will be quite happy with that scenario in the run up to their clash with Arsenal on Sunday.