Thursday, December 01, 2011

Season 2011/2012: Match 11: Tottenham Hotspur 1 PAOK Salonika 2 (Europa League Group A)

So from The Emirates on Tuesday night to White Hart Lane on Wednesday.

I thought that the Spurs match might be a sell-out, given that it was a European clash between two teams both in with a shout of winning their group, but there were a significant number of empty seats.

Most of the noise was coming from the sizeable away support, who didn't let up from the time I entered the ground almost an hour before kick-off until long after I left.

The ground itself seemed remarkably tight, probably because I'd been to The Emirates the night before. Even sitting in the top deck, it felt like I was right on top of the pitch, making it feel like a bigger version of Tynecastle.

Like Hearts' ground, White Hart Lane has seen better days, but what it lacks in the sparkling newness and glamour of its North London rivals' ground, it makes up in feeling like a traditional football ground, one where history has been made and the stands have stories to tell.

I've always had a soft spot for Spurs, ever since I was a boy and the teams of Gazza, Gary Lineker, Jurgen Klinsmann and Ilie Dumitrescu. Even today, I like more of their players than is the case with most of the English clubs - Bale, Modric, Defoe, van der Vaart and even Aaron Lennon all try to play attractive football. All of that group besides van der Vaart played today, with Bale introduced as a second half sub.

By that time, the match had unravelled for both teams, albeit to different degrees. Spurs were a mess at the back (more of that later) and PAOK (which I only discovered today is pronounced "Powk" and not "Pee Eh Oh Kay") raced into a two-goal lead inside 12 minutes thanks to a Salpingidis header and a back post slide from Athanasiadis.

Spurs found a way back into the match when Stafylidis was sent off for handling the ball on the goal line, Modric stepping up to stroke the resulting penalty into the net.

But that was it for Spurs. They had the ball in the net twice again, but both times the goal was ruled out, once for offside and once because Contreras was lying on the goalline injured as Defoe netted.

The match descended into a series of petty squabbles and niggly fouls, and Spurs couldn't find the goal they needed, with Bale, Defoe and Lennon all going close.

For me, the biggest villain on the night was William Gallas. Supposedly Spurs' most experienced and mature defender, he spent the majority of the match wandering around in what appeared to be a disinterested huff, making little effort to actually defend (he was at fault for PAOK's first goal) and found frequently out of position. When he did finally show an interest, it was when he moved himself up front to act as an auxiliary striker for the last five minutes. A petutlant, spoilt bastard of a player, who should do everyone a favour and retire gracelessly.

Gallas' poor showing masked Steven Pienaar's, but only slightly. Pienaar is useless. Absolutely useless. He did nothing good tonight, misplacing passes, getting caught in possession, losing the ball and wasting chances. A truly horrendous display.

All in all, another good night out, spoiled by the result (I was rooting for the Spurs).

Man of the match: Salpingidis gave the Spurs defence a tough time and took his goal well, before getting into a barney with Kyle Walker before and after the final whistle. Aaron Lennon was pacy but couldn't do anything with the ball in the final third. Pulling the strings today was Luka Modric, the hub of everything good Spurs did against a team of 10 men intent on sitting behind the ball and frustrating the home side.

1 comment:

Tomst7 said...

Tottenham put out a mainly B Team. Any Tottenham fan could have told you it wouldn't be sold out!

It was Gallas' first game back from injury, whilst Bassong was actually at fault, along with Corluka, for both goals.

Go to a Prem match.