with a banjo, luckily.
While Spurs approached this Europa League game in the same manner as previous outings their hosts, FC Sheriff Tiraspol, had different ideas.
Spurs travelled to Tiraspol which is either in Moldova or Transnistria without a number of first team players rested for the weekend’s league game against Hull, while including others fighting for the few spaces available or you wondered if you’d see again, well the latter in the form of Adebayor. Would the boss start him, would he come on at some point? Well, it turned out no and no.
Would Spurs turn up and be bothered for this one the way they haven’t been for the previous couple of games and would the hosts bother and make a game of it in the way previous opponents just haven’t? Answers this time being no and yes.
Sheriff had a game-plan which bar one or two slight faults worked almost perfectly. Let the Spurs’ players have the ball with easy in the Spurs’ half but once they crossed the halfway line press and counter at pace. Until they tired and getting once goal wasn’t enough to affect the outcome it was a plan that worked right up until the point where someone in yellow had to put the ball in the net.
First up they had to avoid the offside trap, which proved Defoe like difficult a number of times, then they had to avoid Lloris, then they had to avoid a last ditch block and when all that was bypassed they had to actually miss the target. The latter part proved their greatest downfall, a real finisher and Spurs wouldn’t be coming back from a non-country with three points and yet another clean sheets.
Sheriff’s plan worked because yet again there was a lack of movement from the visitors. A lot of standing around. That along with some weak passing. And when the two are combined it makes things equally woeful, as players looked to pass for passing sake rather than take command and run with the ball. Lennon, I’m looking at you. Again he wasn’t helped by having Naughton at right-back but he did’t help himself to the space he was allowed. More often than not found just standing looking back or drifting inside to the congested middle. If he wants to get his starting place back he’s gonna have to do a hell of a lot more than this. Does he think he’s just going to be gifted it back without any effort?
He also missed the best chance to make things a bit more comfortable for Spurs. They had taken the lead from Vertonghen’s header after a dozen minutes, which didn’t half silence things. When Lennon played through one on one with the ‘keeper completely Defoe’d the shot. Played through by a lovely flick from Eriksen – who other than that had a pretty awful night – a little lift from Lennon and it would have been two nil but he banged the ball straight at the ‘keeper’s legs.
It would have been one all at that point but not for a combination of Lloris and Chiriches. Caught with a quick break, Naughton too busy sticking his arm up for offside, Lloris came out to the edge of the area and just made Luvannor have to enough to get round the Frenchman that it gave Vlad enough time to get back and stick his leg out to block the eventual goal bound shot.
That was pretty much the pattern of the game, with Naughton seeing far too much of the ball. First up everything was coming down the right, then when Fryers went off injured Naughton moved to left back – with Dawson’s introduction and Chiriches moving to rightback – everything went down the left. Ball magnet.
This didn’t help Lamela who started on the left so didn’t see anything of the ball and of course he switched wings when Naughton switched so he saw about as much on the right. And when he did see it he looked like a player lost. Low on confidence the ball just seemed to repeatedly get caught up under his feet.
He’d departed for Chadli by the time Defoe made it safe. Chadli I thought brought some life to proceedings for Spurs. He actually ran at defenders and committed them the way nobody really had previously.
Of course the British media is full of Defoe joining Big Chiv – Martin Chivers – as Spurs’ top scorer in Europe. But this was a typical Defoe performance. Not much to write home about and a shot banged hard that but for a deflection would have hit the goalkeeper. Talk him up lads.
By then Sheriff had run out of steam. Holtby came on to run rings round them and provide some of the passing that had been so missing earlier. Yes people will point to the passing stats being high but so many of them were Scott Parker passes by the likes of Eriksen that to count them is an affront.
It’s another three points, it’s another clean sheet and qualification from the group is all but guaranteed no but there’ll come a point in the competition when they’ll have to do a bit more than the bare minimum to get through.