Thursday, November 03, 2011

Rubin Kazan 1 Tottenham 0 (Europa League)

Tottenham's young team lost to a single goal from a free-kick early in the second half.  Spurs lost their unbeaten record to a strong Russian team who are now level on points with them.  The young players, again, looked comfortable on the ball and especially in the first half worked very hard to deny and frustrate the home side.  In attack, even with Defoe and Pavlyuchenko, Spurs failed to test the goalkeeper or create any real goal scoring opportunities.

Rubin Kazan 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Scorer: Natcho

Team: Cudicini; Fredericks, Gallas (Parrett), Bassong, Townsend; Falque, Livermore, Carroll, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko (Kane)  Sibs: (Unused) Gomes, Stewart, Nicholson, Pritchard, Lancaster 

Tottenham sent out a team with none of the players whop beat QPR at the weekend.  William Gallas returned from injury to captain the side and Steven also had his first game of the season after an operation.  Gallas and Bassong were the experience in central defence with Ryan Fredericks and Andros Townsend as fullbacks.  In midfield Jake Livermore and Tom Carroll were in the centre with Falque and Pienaar on the wings,  Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko had the experience up front.

As in previous Europa League matches Spurs started in a composed and controlled manner, keeping the ball and using it to good effect in defence and midfield.  They, again, found it difficult to be creative in the last third of the pitch, the final ball either going astray or being cut out.  They managed to keep Rubin Kazan at bay although the two young full backs who were being asked to get forward regularly as well as defend were finding it difficult against two good wingers with defenders also willing to attack.  Carlo Cudicini made a number of good saves and interceptions to keep the home side out.  

In the second half the Russians started much more positively and pushed Spurs back who were now finding it much more difficult to keep the ball in a controlled fashion.  Often Tottenham clearances were being picked up by Rubin and putting Spurs back under pressure.  Cudicini continued to put in a calming and commanding performance with more important saves.

In the 55th minute the hiome side were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the Spurs area.  Unfortunately, it was a needless free-kick to concede - Gallas had cleverly cleared from a dangerous cross and the ball fell nicely to Bassong in the centre of the penalty area to clear.  His first touch was too heavy and as he lunged to try to clear he brought down the home player.  Rubin Kazan's top scorer, Natcho scored giving Cudicini no chance.  It was a careless goal to give away and from that time the home side put Spurs under increasing pressure which they were struggling to deal with.

After 70 minutes, Gallas had to go off injured, Livermore dropped into defence and Dean Parrett joined Carroll in central midfield.  The two young players found it difficult to deal with the home side pressure as they found more time and space.  A few minutes later, Harry Kane replaced Pavlyuchenko who had contributed little and had been flagged offside too often.  Kane brought more to the game but it was Cudicini who continued to keep the Russians out.  Twice from free-kicks near the Russias' box, Spurs were defending desperately as the home side broke quickly after Spurs had given the ball away.
In the final minutes as the home side were looking to hold on to their win, Spurs tried to build some pressure but again the final ball was lacking.  

The young players acquitted themselves well and it was unfortunate that the goal came from a defensive mistake by an experienced player.  Cudiicini was man of the match for his string of saves and his commanding performance.  Tottenham will now look to beat PAOK in the next game and then win in Dublin to secure qualification to the knock-out stages.  Some of the first team regulars may have to add some more experience and guile to a team that has failed to score a goal in three of the five games they have played.

Cudicini was outstanding, keeping Spurs in the game and avoiding a much heavier defeat.
Fredericks and Townsend both had a difficult night defensively and were asked to do a lot of work by having to attack down the wings.

Gallas used all his experience well and had a good game.  It was unfortunate that he has suffered another injury.  Bassong had a better night overall but his loss of concentration and poor touch gave away the free-kick from which the goal was scored.  he almost made a similar mistake a little later when he gave a poor pas to Parrett in central midfield.

Falque, Pienaar and Carroll worked hard in midfield and had good control in the first half but after the interval struggled to keep a grip on the home side as they increased the pressure.  Falque tried to be creative and in the second half, Defoe had the ball in the net from his cross but the referee had blown because, as everyone knew, the winger had taken the ball out before he got his cross in.  Carroll played well in the first half but found it much more difficult to be an influence after that.  Pienaar did well to last the full game having been out with an injury but he contributed little to the game.  Livermore played well both in midfield and defence although on occasions he gives the Ball away to easily.  Parrett found it difficult to get to the pace of the game especially as the Russians were playing with a greater confidence having taken the lead.  He and Carroll were being asked to do a very difficult job against a very good Russian team.

Defoe and Pavlyuchenko offered little threat and were disappointing.  They, and particularly Pavlyuchenko, were both offside too often which stopped Spurs when they were trying to get forward.  Harry Kane who came on for the final fifteen was more prepared to run and take on defenders than either of his two more experienced colleagues.

Tottenham have taken a gamble by playing a weakened side throughout the Europa League campaign.  Up to this point they have got away with it but they knew they were facing a very strong Russian side and will be satisfied to take only a one goal defeat when it could have been a lot worse had Cudicini not performed so well.  

As PAOK beat Shamrock Rovers to head Group A, Spurs who are in third place on goal difference behind the Rubin Kazan, they now know what they have to do in the final two games to secure qualification and preferably as Group winners.


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