Dnipro 1 Tottenham 0: Four talking points
Dnipro 1 Tottenham 0: Four talking points as Spurs are beaten in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie
A poor match
To be kind about this game, let’s say that it wasn’t one for the purists. If it wasn’t for the penalty the deadlock would never have been broken. Yes, the second half was an end-to-end affair and there were some good skills on offer, but the overall quality in the final third was poor, with Matheus and Roberto Soldado both guilty of missing when it was easier to score. Brad Friedel had some simple saves to make but Bokyo went largely untroubled throughout. Both sides cancelled each other out and the neutrals won’t find it difficult to sleep before the second leg kicks off as they’ll hardly be anticipating it. If any substitutions were to change the game it looked likely to be Sherwood’s but after their introductions they settled very quickly. Spurs were left very frustrated and Dnipro can feel proud of their victory.
Ramos the Resilient
It’s well known that Juande Ramos isn’t one of Tottenham’s most respected former managers but he certainly had the better of his former side tonight, with his tactics nullifying Spurs’ neat passing game. His players chased every ball and seemed to want it more than their opponents in white. They battled well and attacked in numbers. They were neat defensively too, only allowing one guilt-edge chance for Soldado, who somehow skied the ball from four yards out. The real test will be when he returns to White Harte Lane where, not only are the fans likely to let them know what they think of him, but he’ll also be a witness to a much more attacking Tottenham performance. Can his side hold out so well there?
Dnipro were incredibly organised and well drilled. When one player started to press the rest of the team would push forward and pressure Spurs into making passes, when one sat back they all sat back in two banks of four, making themselves very difficult to break down. At the heart of this was the central midfield pairing of Rotan and Zozulya who worked in unison to make sure Capoue and Bentaleb barely had a sniff. When mixed with the dynamism of Matheus, Tottenham barely had a chance to think before thinking, instead resorting to close-knit triangles to try to pick their way through. It was these tactics from Dnipro that contributed to Soldado being isolated for most of the game.
Free kick or penalty?
If there was one talking point in the first half it was definitely Strinic’s challenge on Paulinho which looked like it could have been a penalty. Soldado played a fantastic through ball to Paulinho who galloped on to it through the Dnipro defence, only to be pulled back at the last second by Strinic, who received a yellow card for his troubles. Referee, Antonio Lahoz, thought long and hard before awarding a free kick a yard outside the penalty area. Television replays showed that it was the right decision but should Strinic have seen red? Paulinho would have been one on one with Bokyo had he not have been brought down. Maybe he would’ve been given his marching orders had the challenge been made in the area. The refereeing was consistent throughout so when Vertonghen fouled Matheus and gave away a penalty for a similar challenge he also received a yellow.