After the attention being on the red half of North London yesterday, it was time for Tottenham to show their North London rivals their own European pedigree. A win for spurs would mean qualification into the knockout stage, with the Moldovan outfit Sheriff Tiraspol needing at least a point to avoid crashing out of Europe for the third time in this competition.
There was lots of talk before the match had even started, with the controversy of Lloris finally easing off, the possibility of Defoe taking over Martin Chivers' all time goal record in Europe for Spurs and Brad Friedel setting a new European record as the oldest player to play on the European stage.
Many Spurs and Premier League fans have been wondering about the same question this season...'Why doesn't Defoe play more in the Premier League?' With 6 goals this season, 4 arriving in the Europa League, it is hard to figure out why Defoe has not been given the chance to play more in
the premier league. Nobody, including the man himself, seems to know why. Some argue that it is
because of the system Spurs now play with one up front. However Defoe has played on his own up front in Europe and played up front on his own for England once against Bulgaria and scored a hat trick, so it's hard to convince me that there are tactical reasons behind his lack of action in the PL. Its not as if Spurs have been hitting teams for six every game too, with their last premier league match against Everton ending goalless only highlighting that Soldado has not yet had a big an impact as someone like Negredo has had at Man City yet. Defoe is one of those players who I would trust 100% to score when through on goal and has an excellent goal scoring record for England. It is difficult for me to see why Defoe shouldn't play on the weekend and I hope for England's sake that he starts earning some more minutes on the pitch as I believe he has a lot to offer England going forward in the world cup next summer.
A massive congratulations has to be sent out to Brad Friedel. At 42 years of age, he has become the most senior player to ever play in Europe and is a record he fully deserves. Many still feel that he was extremely unlucky to lose his place last season to Hugo Lloris. However, with fantastic displays fro
m the frenchmen this season, the decision by AVB has proved to be justified. However despsite losing his place, Friedel has continued to train hard. After training he goes straight on the treadmill to continue training and apparently follows Giggs in regards to the amount of yoga he does. An excellent professional and a great ambassador for the sport.
It was always expected for Spurs to dominate the possession at home in this match, and so they did in the first half, but the best chances fell to Sheriff Tiraspol in the first half who showed potential to hurt Spurs on the counter attack with a shot deflecting onto the post on the 25 minute mark and then a lose square ball by Eriksen offering a golden opportunity for Ricardinhnio who could only shoot just wide of the post.
With a heavy price tag of £26m, Spurs fans will naturally expect big things from Lamela. Due to
the in-form Townsend keeping him on the bench, tonight was an important night to showcase
his talent. Despite taking time in the first half hour of the game to get a feel for the ball, Lamela didn't take long to show glimmers of class with a few tight penalty shouts being waved away by the referee. He was the most influential player in the entire match and competition is rife on the wings despite the departure of Bale in the summer. AVB certainly has a selection dilemna for the weekend.
Chances were far a few between for Spurs, unable to provide that decisive ball in the final third. Credit has to be given to Sheriff Tiraspol who had 7-8 yellow shirts behind the ball on every spurs attack and simply crowded out any spurs player with the ball in the final third. Defoe was simply a spectator in the first half due to the lack of service available to him and virtually didn't have a touch throughout the whole first half. However right on half time Defoe had his chance only to completely miss the ball on the front post. A lack of action during the first half for Defoe possibly meant a lack of sharpness when attacking the ball at the near post.
The second half started in very similar fashion, until a cross on the hour mark from Spurs rebounded off the hip of a FC Sheriff defender only to fall on a plate for Lamela who cleverly gave the eyes to the keeper and slotted the ball at the front post. 1-0, Lamela's first goal for Spurs and just like the first leg, Sheriff Tiraspol had lost concentration on the hour mark.
Sheriff Tiraspol needing a point from this game to stay in the competition had nothing to lose now and had to go after the game more. With 15 minutes to go, a shot outside the box caught Friedel by surprise and could only parry it to Isa who gladly slotted it in on the rebound. 2-1 and finally after 593 minutes of clean sheets in Europe, Spurs had finally conceded a goal. However, spurs comfortably held on with very little threat from the Moldovan team towards the final whistle.
Despite 9 changes being made by Spurs, a patient spurs performance eventually causes Sheriff Tiraspol to crash out of the competition and for Spurs to progress to the last 32 with two games to spare. Using the Bale transfer money to add depth to their squad has given spurs the luxury which they didn't have last season of picking almost a whole new side who can be more than competitive in Europe. However it was concerning to see the lack of service Defoe got in the game, with a similar situation for Soldado against Everton. Its fantastic for Spurs to have such a great depth in their squad, which perhaps their North London rivals Arsenal lack, but spurs need a play maker who can really change the game with a fantastic pass or an inspired run. The lack of real creativity is why I think Spurs won't have enough this season to make the top four with all their rivals having a player who can really change the game instantly. However the depth of their squad and the quality they do have, for me, makes them favourites to win the Europa League and I will be cheering them every step of the way.
Please comment below and let me know what you think, especially spurs fans! Do you think spurs DO have enough to make the champions league this season? Are you really that interested in the Europa League?