Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is through to the last 16 stage of the Europa League. They got through after defeating Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk FC of Ukraine 3-2 on aggregate on Thursday. They won 3-1 on the night at White Hart Lane in North London.
Tottenham Hotspur were trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Ukraine a fortnight ago. There was cautious optimism around the stadium at the start of the match. The manager Tim Sherwood had stated his belief before the match that it they were capable of turning it around.
The Spurs do, however, have a reputation of blowing hot and cold and more or less blowing it on big stages. One can imagine any few Spurs believers left in the stadium were quickly converted in to non-believers when Roman Zozulya scored a vital away goal for the away side. He headed in a free kick from Yevhen Konoplyanka from the left hand side early in the second half to put Spurs two goals down.
The Dnipro goal somehow looked like wake-up tonic prescribed as it seemed to reinvigorate the players rather than deflate their mood. Moussa Dembele’s effort just missed the target as it nestled unto the top of the net and Spanish import Roberto Soldado was denied by the offside flag. The home fans were however given something to celebrate in the 56th minute when Danish maestro, Christian Eriksen sent in a brilliant free kick that went around the wall into the bottom left corner of Denis Boyko’s goal. As is often the case in many matches that are this tight, it is so easy to go from hero to villain as Zozulya found out in the 62nd minute. He was red carded for a needless head butt on defender Jan Vertonghen. He had to be held back by many of his team mates as he felt he didn’t deserve the card. Replays showed the touch was minimal and that the Belgian had made the most of the touch to give his side numerical advantage.
Tottenham Hotspurs duly took full advantage of their numerical advantage when Emmanuel Adebayor scored a beautifully zapped ball from Eriksen’s right foot. The comeback was complete in 69 minutes when Adebayor controlled a long ball from Ezekiel Fryers from the half-way line. He then coolly poked the ball past Boyko.
The Spurs manager, reacting after the match indicated a desire to have the team present with more character and spirit more consistently. Sherwood said, “It’s a good platform, a learning curve and we can point to it in the future.”
Spurs now face Benfica of Portugal in the last 16 stage of the competition. Benfica were the beaten finalists last year. This might raise a new issue of some sort though as it can possibly lead to a fixture pile up. Tottenham Hotspur FC could have to play against Benfica three days before the North London Derby against heated rivals Arsenal. That would be Thursday, March 13 and a Sunday, March 16 respectively, which could end up testing the squad strength of the team.
White Hart Lane, London
Tottenham Hotspur– Christian Eriksen 56, Emmanuel Adebayor 65, 69
Dnipro – Roman Zozulya 48.
Tottenham Hotspurs – Sandro, Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson
Dnipro – Roslan Rotan, Denis Kulakov.
Dnipro – Roman Zozulya.
Antony Gautier (France).
By Olajide Jatto