This Europa League group stage has been a bit touch and go over the six games, right through to 15 minutes from the end of the final game last night.
This of course was only the case due to inept officiating in the two ties against Lazio. Give the legit goals and you could take points off them and add more to Spurs and this last game would have been a formality. That it wasn’t anyway against a struggling Panathinaikos side was pure Tottenham.
The first half was pretty much controlled possession from the hosts but with no cutting edge. Missing Bale and the runs he can and does make to cut through defences. Things weren’t helped by the “striking partnership”. Adebayor was constantly dropping deep, leading to more sideways movement and very little behind their back-line. Defoe was just non-existent.
Two of the youngsters weren’t helping. Naughton isn’t a left-back, we all know it. Far too right footed, his first instinct when placed on the left flank is to pass inside to back, there’s very little forward from him and he just doesn’t make the runs that are required either. Carroll is a tidy little player, some may coo about his passing stats and there’s a lot to be said about keeping the ball but a lot of it was nothing passes. Sideways balls to Naughton – who seems to see a hell of a lot of the ball – after which Carroll drops deep for the return. Again very little going forward but then he wasn’t helped by the strikers and their positioning.
The Greek visitors had the best chance through all this possession. A well worked free-kick which could have resulted in the opening goal due to some nodding off in the defence.
The opener came on the half hour. Adebayor actually moved forward, he wasn’t offside, just, and he didn’t then butcher his first touch. Nice through ball from Dempsey, who was probably Spurs best player on the night playing on his favoured left side with the absence of Bale, and the striker slid it past the ‘keeper for a nice finish. Other than that Adebayor was at his frustrating worst. Inept first touch, passing to people with men on, offloading and just standing there.
The equaliser came after the break during a period of Spurs doing their headless chicken act. Go through patches like this far too often, where they just can keep the ball, everything is done in panic and as the ball came out to the Greek’s left a voice popped up
goal here split second later a great cross found the head of Zeca who placed the ball past, the captain on the night, Friedel. Naughton caught out badly on the cross but again it shouldn’t have got that far.
After the equaliser it was all Panathinaikos as the Spurs’ headless chick act continued. A change was required but the boss made a mistake in keeping things the same. They were now overrunning the midfield and Carroll was fading badly. Also Naughton was having a mare, cautioned for a rugby tackle, he was rattled and really should have been hooked. But the only defender on the bench was Stewart, a kid, so maybe that stopped AVB.
But Dembele was required and the boss left it later than he should, 75 minutes in. Just a minute before Spurs’ second. Good run by Sandro brought a foul and Walker whipped in a great free-kick right on Dempsey’s head. The American had ghosted in from the edge of the area, keeping away from all the manhandling, to power the header against the bar. Will be classed as an own goal by the ‘keeper but Clint deserved it for his display.
Defoe kept his cheerleaders happy, after a nothing display for the previous 82 minutes, when on 83 minutes he was fed by Lennon, after a nice run, to cutely chip the ball past the advancing ‘keeper. Of course he was close to being offside and with the level of officiating that is a risk – has anyone actually explained the offside rule to him? It was a cracking finish, one should should do more of instead of the battering at ‘keeper, woodwork etc.
So during 90 minutes it was all aspects of Spurs this season. From good to bad to the ridiculous. But it was another win and onto the knock-out stages of a competition we all want to win. From the boss down.