(Pavlyuchenko – 34)
Rubin Kazan 0
A stunning Roman Pavlyuchenko free-kick was was enough to see Spurs top of their Europa League group after a tight affair at White Hart Lane against Rubin Kazan.
Harry Redknapp made nine changes from the 2-2 draw with Newcastle last weekend, with the Premier League encounter with Blackburn Rovers set to take priority, while giving the likes of Aaron Lennon, Danny Rose and Sandro some much need match practise after returning from their respective injuries.
And it was the home-side who started the brighter of the two with Russian front-man Roman Pavlyuchenko, enjoying only his fifth start of the campaign, rifling inches wide from 30-yards.
Kazan then attempted to take the initiative as Cesar Navas glanced Bibras Natkho’s corner just wide while Heurelho Gomes did well to block Gokdeniz Karadeniz’s close range header.
Jermain Defoe, re-instated to the starting XI after being dropped for the trip to St. James’ Park, fired just wide after 20 minutes before Rose was bought down 20-yards from goal on the half hour.
Pavlyuchenko struck the resulting free-kick in emphatic fashion, his effort that ricocheting off the crossbar and into the top corner to make it 1-0 to Spurs.
The Russian wasn’t finished yet, once again testing Sergey Ryzhikov in the Kazan goal with the with the 29-year-old’s compatriot turning his deflected effort around the post.
Despite having the advantage at half-time, it was Kazan that looked the brighter of the two-sides going into the second half with Gomes called into action twice in quick succession first denying Sandro, whose backwards header looked goalbound, before the Brazilian was on-hand to deny Aleksandr Ryazantsev goal-bound effort just moments later.
Luckily the resulting rebound evaded Nelson Valdez, who was well placed to equalise. It then took the trio of Sandro, Sebastien Bassong and Jake Livermore to block Oleg Kuzmin and Christian Noboa’s double effort before Ryazantsev’s tame curling effort was easily gathered by Gomes.
Meanwhile, at the other end Lennon’s cross found Defoe un-marked in the box but the striker’s powered header was well kept out by Ryzhikov.
But it was the away side who continued to dominate proceedings, former Newcastle United and Birmingham City front-man Obafemi Martin’s effort was well blocked by Kyle Walker while the Nigerian sent his header wide from the resulting corner.
There was still time for both sides to nick a goal apiece heading into injury time, Noboa’s free-kick comfortably dealt with by Gomes while Navas did well to block Rose’s cross that was destined for the path of Pavlyuchenko.
“He is a great striker of the ball. He really can hit a ball,” Redknapp said on Pavlyuchenko after the game.
“When he lined it up I had a feeling he was going to score because he is a very clean striker of the football.
“He’s got two great feet. Technically he’s a top, top player – there was never any doubt about that. It was good to see him score.”
Reflecting on the team’s performance, the Spurs manager added: “They are a good side, Rubin. They are just as I expected them to be. It was a good result for us.
“I didn’t want to over-stretch too many of senior players and one or two of the young kids like Jake Livermore and Tom Carroll did well.
“I will be taking a very, very young team out to Russia now for sure for the second game,” he said on the trip to Russia next month.
“I find the competition difficult to be honest. There are so many games, so much travelling and the league is our priority.”