Guest blog by Boxbat (regular over at The Fighting Cock forum).
Rubin 1 Yoof and disinterested souls 0
Redknapp picks a great night to stay at home.
There may have been a notable lack of first choice personnel on the pitch, on the bench, and in the dugout, but those that did bother to make the trip showed some good early intent – Ryan Fredericks opted for short sleeves on what I can only imagine was a brisk evening in Kazan, whilst Jake Livermore made a fine tackle in the opening stages to stop a pitch invader in his tracks.
The rest of the first quarter of the game resembled the trip to Salonika, with Spurs’ youngsters afforded time to string a few passes together but looking unthreatening at the business end of the pitch. As Rubin struggled to find momentum of their own, a repeat of the stalemate with PAOK did indeed look on the cards. Unfortunately, whilst Tottenham’s Europa League attack proved reliably toothless throughout, Rubin soon upped their game and started to look more like a team that had beaten Barcelona not so long ago. With backup full-backs Corluka and Rose both injured, Townsend and Fredericks were left with the unenviable task of deputising in defence and stopping the Russian side’s wingers. Who turned out to be their best players on the night, naturally.
Still, Gallas looked commanding on his return, Falque was lively on the right, Defoe put in a decent ball across the six yard box, and Cudicini made several excellent saves to keep the score at 0-0, so those Spurs fans who cared enough about this game to experience emotions could feel rather satisfied at half time.
After the break Gallas went off injured, Falque and Defoe faded out of the game and we conceded the single goal that, in honesty, always looked like being enough. Seb Bassong did his prospects of an extended run on the sidelines no harm with a needless foul on the edge of the area, and commentator’s dream Bebras Natcho hit a scrumptious curler into the net. Credit must also go to manager Kurban Berdyev for keeping faith with those prayer beads.
Townsend, Carroll, Fredericks and Kane all showed moments of promise going forward, but they are not game changers just yet. Nor is Steven Pienaar (at least whilst he regains fitness), whose energies seemed to be mainly directed towards conversing angrily with team-mates, opponents and officials after every foul or cock-up. I’ve spent the last couple of days defending Pav, but tonight’s game hinted at what many had suspected: whilst he can occasionally pull it out of the bag back in Blighty, he just can’t handle a cold Thursday night in Russia.
Still, Carlo kept making those saves – a MoM performance that deserved a clean sheet. It wasn’t all in vain, though, as by keeping the score down to one Spurs retained parity on the head-to-head. Qualification from the group should still be a formality, though to get much further in the competition we may need to call in some backup (i.e. not the backups...)
A minor irritant, then, but fear not: the first string are back in action on Sunday, and Harry still has his own unbeaten streak intact. Canny fella.