return of European football to White Hart Lane was not quite as glorious
as some of older fans might remember, but in the end it was objective
achieved as the 1-0 win over Slavia Prague gave Spurs passage to the
group stages of the UEFA Cup.
white kit was a reminder of the Glory Glory nights, but unfortunately,
the football did not live up to it. It was not that it wasn't an
exciting match, but one in which Tottenham's football was ragged and the
level of performance from the Czech opponents improved from a fortnight
ago, making it a night when the end result was the important thing, but
the nature in which it was achieved a bit more worrying.
From the early stages, Spurs pressed forward.
With Mido and Jenas both just failing to apply the finishing touch to a
low Chimbonda cross in our first attack three minutes in, to Mido's
glaring miss with a header in injury time, the chances were created, but
From the first incident a corner was played in
with pace by Jenas, with Davenport flicking it on at the near post and
Keane just failing to latch onto it at the far post as it whizzed past
him. You had the feeling that Slavia would be looking to hit Spurs
on the break and in the fifth minute, Hrdlicka found a bit of space just
inside the area, but rushed his shot and hit it well wide.
Jenas had seen that his pace out on the right
could cause problems for the visiting defence, as re took the ball well
inside his own half and raced down the touchline to the opposite penalty
area, where his intended ball inside to Mido was put out for another
corner by Latka. The central defender who was at Birmingham last
season showed perhaps why he didn't make it in the English game, as he
consistently pulled, pushed and kicked Mido, before finally getting
booked in the 71st minute.
Anthe chance was presented to Robbie Keane in
the 27th minute, when a deep corner found him alone at the far post,
with a free header, but he disappointingly failed to hit the target,
finding the side-netting instead. Yet another corner found
Chimbonda's head that flashed over the top and then the French defender
put in a low ball for Mido, who could not get his foot around the ball
enough to get it on target.
Just before the interval, Slavia had a couple
of chances that could easily have given them the lead in the match.
When a long high ball got over Dawson, the hat-trick hero from the
weekend Fort bent backwards and looped a header that Robinson had to
dive to hold onto. Then as the ball ran into the path of Jarolim,
some 25 yards out, his low drive was deflected upwards by Dawson and
left Robbo stranded, but luckily for Tottenham went over the top.
In between, Spurs should have taken the lead with their best opportunity
of the game up to then. Jenas and Murphy worked space on the right
and the ball into the box got to Keane standing around the penalty spot.
His shot unerringly found the keeper, who gratefully held the ball ... a
yard either side and it would have been 1-0.
Tottenham started the second half in much the
same manner as they have in a few games this season. Slow out of
the blocks, leaving the opposition to take the initiative, Slavia pushed
forward, with Krajcik firing long range efforts just over the bar twice
within the first five minutes of the half.
Jol brought on Tainio for Ziegler and Slavia
replaced Janda with Vlacek. Tainio's first involvement was to get
a yellow card for kicking the ball away, which is stupid for a player of
his European experience. Zokora was having a fine game in
midfield, strong, decisive and determined. His run with the ball
in the 70th minute took him into Slavia territory and just when it
looked like he would unleash a shot, he tried to play in Keane and the
ball was cut out. Ghaly's introduction for Murphy was perhaps
designed to improve the final pass to the forwards.
His first cross, low into the area, was kicked
out for a corner. Then four minutes later, he chested down
Chimbonda's cross and would have been looking to shoot himself, but
Robbie Keane took it off his toe and smashed it low into the bottom of
the net. The goal blew the lid off the pressure the crowd had been
building up and the team celebrated with glee.
Spurs had been passing the ball around quite
comfortably, but without being penetrative and when a good move ended
with Zokora, he took a shot and it went a yard or two wide. Mido
set up a chance for Jenas, but a half-block took the sting out of it and
as the ninety minute mark approached, Robbie forced Suchy to kick the
ball away as it was lifted over the keeper and headed for the goal.
Either side of these attempts, Slavia could have got a goal back when
Vlacek twice got into the area and had volleyed chances, but put both
tamely wide of Robinson's goal.
Two crosses from Ghaly in injury time set up
the forwards for goal chances. First Keane met it with a header,
beating Kozacik at the near post, but as we all celebrated, the linesman
had raised a flag and gave offside to rule it out. The second
cross picked out Mido at the far post and with time and space, he headed
goalwards and we all celebrated ... only to discover he had put it wide
from about a yard out !!
The Spurs team acknowledged the roar from the
crowd at the final whistle. It was a relief to be through, but two
clean sheets helped, although this has to be tempered against the
quality of the opposition. We will face much better teams in the
group stage (although not too much better I hope) and we will need to be
better all over the pitch, but with some of the injured returning, it
might help the improvement we need.
So, the European tour continues for a month or
two at least !!
MEHSTG TOP MAN : -