|OPPONENTS||NK Maribor (Slovenia)|
|DATE||Thursday 8th November 2012|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
saw in Slovenia that Maribor are capable of putting teams under
pressure, but that had arisen from our sloppy play that had let in a
goal and failed to dominate the match as we should have done..
With a team that was quite open, Spurs should really have utilised the possession and gone in at half-time a couple of goals ahead, but one down made it difficult and although they got a goal back, there were still opportunities for the home side near the end. So, it will be interesting to see how they set up with the Wigan defeat fresh in the mind and this being a must win game if they are serious about staying in the competition. At hoem and with two forwards, you feel we might stand a better chance, but AVB might want to stick with this favoured 4-2-3-1 formation and that might give Maribor the encouragement to push forward.
It also means that Spurs might not be able to rest layers ahead of a busy couple of weeks, with Manchester City and Arsenal awaiting in the subsequent away matches on consecutive weeks.
The use of the wingers must be more intelligent, with Lennon and Bale given the ball in front of them to run the full backs and with Walker and Vertonghen over-lapping, the Slovenians must be stretched to create openings. Additionally, Spurs need to get men into the box and this has been a problem, meaning our forwards have been outnumbered by the defence, making it difficult to finish moves off.
Maribor possess players who could hurt Tottenham, but by posing more problems for them than we cause for ourselves, it could be the key to winning this game and then making sure that we go out to make the most of the ball in terms of possession and goals.
There can be no more half-game performances and this should be used as an exercise in how to win games and finish the opposition off so that they don't come back. It might be a big home win, but it could be a bit tighter, depending on how the team go about their business.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Maribor 1|
|TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :|
|NK MARIBOR TEAM NEWS :|
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
3 (1) NK Maribor 1 (1)
Thursday 8th November 2012 Kick off 20:05
White Hart Lane
Bale (kicking ball away) 53
Carroll (foul on Mertelj) 76
Mejac (foul on Walker) 38
|Crowd : 27,089||Weather : -|
|Referee : Antti Manukka (Finland)||Assistant Referees : Matti Heininen (Finland); Jan-Peter Aravirta (Finland)|
|Fourth Official : Jukka Honkanen||Additional Assistants : Mattius Gestranius; Dennis Antamo (Finland)|
|NK Maribor kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Maribor :||kit|
Aaron LENNON (27
Iago FALQUE 90)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Darko Milanic|
|Sponsor : Investec||Shirt sponsor : Zavarovalica Maribor|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : adidas|
So, having drawn the three opening games of the Europa League campaign, Spurs won their fourth at home against NK Maribor with a hat-trick of gals from Jermain Defoe, but had to endure a couple of nervous moments in the process, even though Andre Villas-Boas bowed to the widely held opinion that Spurs should start with two forwards.
The whole furore surrounding the use of the Y word had opened a Pandora's box for a large number of people, with the chants of "We're Tottenham Hotspur, We sing what we want" followed by a round of the offending song. While the argument will be held elsewhere, it is little to do with the effect on the game and the fact that the side were reliant on the crowd, as AVB referred to in the build-up to the game, it is a testament to them that they managed through a game when all that could be heard for some parts was the incomprehensible chanting of the visiting supporters. They could have been singing offensive ditties for all I know, but then UEFA wouldn't worry about that too much even if they were.
The big talk about what was going to happen on the pitch before the game was the inclusion of Emmanuel Adebayor to play alongside Jermain Defoe. Following the defeat by Wigan Athletic on Saturday, the disquiet among fans who thought the one up front regime of the new coach cost us the game seemed to permeate through to the management and Spurs started at a reasonable crack to have a go at the visiting Slovenians, who were supported by a reasonable number of their fans ... more than Wigan brought on Saturday. The other major change to the Spurs side was the inclusion of Tom Carroll in place of Sandro alongside Tom Huddlestone. The youngster is a very good passer of the ball, but sometimes looks a little fragile and perhaps Hud is not the most defensively minded midfielder to play alongside of him in the middle of four across the pitch.
As it was, there was not too much to worry about, as Carroll shone with some very intuitive passing and both he and the other Tom won a number of tackles to break up Maribor's nascent attacks. Gareth Bale was terrifying poor right back Martin Milec, who had no answer to the Welshman's attacking runs, even when helped out by team-mates. The ball was flashing across the Maribor goal from the early stages and despite having two forwards, it still seemed that there were not enough bodies in the box to get on the end of them. Tavares tried a long range effort, but only found Dawson's body denying him.
Just prior to his first goal, Defoe had a good chance from about eight yards out, but he appeared to climb on the back of a centre-half, so if his header hadn't gone straight at the keeper, it might have been ruled out anyway (if Steven Caulker's 'goal' against Lazio was anything to go by). It only took a couple more minutes for Defoe to breach the Maribor defence, as Bale advanced past a couple of opponents and from a way out put a waist high cross into the box. Defoe's marker had slipped and that gave the little forward the chance to get onto the end of it and he opened up his body nicely to steer a volley past Handanovic while in mid-air.
Almost every move down the left threatened a goal and Bale forced the keeper to save before he slid a ball across the face of goal, with Defoe unable to get to it. Walker just couldn't get over Lennon's lifted cross to the far post to allow him to get a header on target and the full-back's next involvement was to be cynically tripped by Mejac, who saw yellow.
Six minutes before half-time, there was a mix-up on our left side of defence and Tavares got around Naughton to drive the ball back across goal. With a player coming in at the far post, Hugo Lloris got down well to palm the ball away and up into the air. it reached the penalty spot, but was met by the head of Cvijanovic, whose effort cleared the bar and might have had more reward had it hit the target. Again, this was only a brief respite, as within a minute, they were level with a mess of a goal handed to them by Tottenham. Lloris had been looking to play the ball out all game - whether it was in his hand or at his feet.
So when he passed the ball out left to Kyle Naughton, the defender was quickly closed by two Maribor players and looked to play the ball back to the French keeper, but didn't look and Beric was bearing down on Lloris as he got the ball. Choosing not to hammer it away, he tried to take a touch away from the Maribor striker, but Beric's foot was stuck out and the ball went forward into the net. It was a massive cock-up and it was a little surprising that nobody spoke to either Naughton or Lloris to pick them up after such a mistake.
Coming five minutes before the break, it almost replicated the player's goal in the first leg, which was a scrambled home effort in the 42nd minute. At least this time it only put them level and not ahead as it had done in their home game, but the crowd were growing restless that the game wasn't sewn up and now the Slovenians were right back in it.
Whatever was going to happen was nothing to compare with the half-time appearance of Fabrice Muamba, who appeared back at White Hart lane for the first time since the collapse in the FA Cup tie here last March which almost cost him his life. He was given a fine reception all the way from the tunnel to the spot on the pitch where he fell that night and was worked on furiously by the medical staff of both clubs to keep him alive. It appeared that he was having a laugh when he pointed to parts of the turf until he reached the fateful spot and then it seemed to hit him. When he made it back to the touchline, he could hardly talk, as his eyes were brimming with tears and his voice found words hard to come by. He did mutter a few thank yous, which were met with more applause and then he was gone, visibly distressed by the whole affair.
The second half kicked off with Maribor attacking, but despite some neat passing and movement, they did not get much past the halfway line and then the move broke down. 27 minutes after Defoe's first goal, he grabbed a second, with Tom Carroll's pass releasing the striker into the box, where he finished with a left foot shot past Handanovic into the bottom corner of the net. There was a sense of relief after giving away the equaliser before half-time, but still an air of apprehension as Spurs needed to finish the game off.
It was perhaps a little ironic that Bale got booked for kicking the ball away, when Maribor were getting to the stage where they were resorting to any means to stop him and almost any Spurs player. One late challenge on Vertonghen failed to even bring a talking to from the referee to the perpetrator. When we did give away a free-kick, Ibraimi crossed for Beric to get on the end of it, but his header was almost unchallenged and it should have found the target, but instead it went a foot over the bar.
With the game approaching the hour mark, Gareth Bale showed some ingenuity to scoop the ball over the Maribor defence to Adebayor, but the Togo striker's shot on the volley was off target, when it looked easy to score. Ade had another shot when he came in from the right, but Handanovic stayed big and pushed the ball wide for corner. In between, Spurs were grateful to Naughton, who nipped the ball off Tavares' toe, as he dithered when given an opportunity to shoot at goal from just inside the box.
While Maribor were closing Spurs down quickly during this part of the game, Tottenham were also doing the same and when Tom Carroll got to Mejac a little late, he got a booking, which could have been a red card in other referee's eyes, as he slipped and caught the Maribor defender above the ankle. As it was, little damage was done, despite the best efforts of Mejac and most of his team-mates to make the slightest challenge look like one which would end their careers. What Muamba must have thought would have been worth knowing.
With fifteen minutes left and coming at almost metronomic regularity, Jermain Defoe struck his third goal to put the result beyond doubt. It started with Tom Huddlestone stretching to put a pass down the left for Bale to chase and his first time low pass across the box was gobbled up by Defoe, running in to fire low past the keeper from eight yards out. It was the sort of goal that Spurs had been scoring regularly, but not recently, so it was good to see the move work to their advantage.
Spurs almost added to their tally with Lennon trying to play a square ball across the area when he cut in from the right to allow Adebayor the opening, but it was cut out and then when Dempsey was set up by Carroll, his low shot lacked power and was straight at the goalie. The American did a bit better when he closed down the Maribor keeper, who dallied over a pass back and he got in the way as the ball was kicked clear, but the luck was with Maribor, as it had been at that same end in the first half. This time the ball popped up into Handanovic's hands and the danger was averted.
So, with three points, Spurs jump into second place in the group ahead of Maribor, with Lazio and Panathinaikos to play and four points mathematically needed to make them safely through. In reality, a win over Panathinaikos may be enough if results elsewhere go the right way for us.
At least, it seems the competition is being taken seriously and the next two games might be better than the first two.
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Position before match :
Position after match : 2nd
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