Rubin Kazan 1
(Natkho – 55)
Despite a superb Carlo Cudicini performance in Russia, a youthful Tottenham side still fell to a defeat away at Rubin Kazan.
With Harry Redknapp undergoing minor heart surgery, Kevin Bond was in charge of team selection and a total of eleven changes were made from the side that defeated QPR last weekend.
Even with the likes of William Gallas, Steven Pienaar, Sebastien Bassong and Cudicini, an excellent Bibras Natkho free-kick was enough to seperate the two sides on Thursday evening.
The game started in bizarre fashion as Jake Livermore took down a pitch invader in the opneing minutes but neither side fashioned any real opportunity in the opening 15 minutes.
Rubin Kazan started the brighter of the two however as Alan Kaasaev broke into the box but his trouble left Cudicini untroubled.
The Spurs ‘keeper was called into action moments later denying Vitali Kaleshin and it could have been 1-0 before half-time but Christian Noboa’s strike was chalked off.
Cudicini remained the busier of the two shot-stoppers and was on-hand to deny Natkho and Alexsandr Ryazantsev on the half-hour mark while Roman Pavlyuchenko could be considered unlucky not to have won a free-kick after bein body checked close to the Rubin box.
Rubin kept up the pressure leading in to the interval, former Newcastle United and Birmingham City man Obafemi Martins unlucky not to connect with Kaasaev’s deep cross.
It wasn’t until the 39th minute the Spurs had their first real opportunity as Jermain Defoe drilled the ball across goal but Pavlyuchenko fell just short of tapping into the empty net.
The home side kept up the pressure from the first-half and 10 minutes into the second-half, they found the breakthrough, Bassong conceding a free-kick on the edge of the box which Natkho duly tucked away in superb fashion leaving Cudicini no chance to deny the Israeli’s dipping effort.
Aleksandr Ryazantsev then saw his effort denied brilliant by the busy Italian in the Spurs net while Ryan Fredericks was unlucky not to keep the ball from running out of play, Defoe tucking away from his cross anyway.
Kevin Bond was forced into his first change of the evening as Gallas pulled up with a slight niggle, the Frenchman being replaced by Dean Parrett.
The home-side continued to pepper the Spurs net but Cudicini was on hand to deny both Gokdeniz Karadeniz and Nelson Valdez in the dyin embers of the Europa League encounter.
What Bond said after the match
“Carlo pulled off one save in particular in the first half and a couple of other excellent saves for us tonight and that is what we knew he was capable of,” Bond said.
“We were under no illusions how good a side they were.
“They are a very good side with a lot of good players and in the end just one goal made the difference.
“It is going to be tight right until the end, but with the games we have got left, it is still in our hands to qualify and we feel confident we will do.
“I left my phone in the changing room and will give him [Redknapp] a call on the way home.
“I spoke to him earlier in the day and he was in fine form. He is threatening to come in tomorrow – perhaps a bit of extra training for the lads!”
Man of the match
Carlo Cudicini was fantastic in the Spurs net on Thursday night and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side following a superb performance away from home.
Moment of the match
Natkho’s stunning free-kick early in the second half proved to be the difference in a rather one-sided affair between the two sides and his goal sent Rubin Kazan to the top of Group A leaving Spurs needing at least four points from their remaining two games to secure qualification into the next round of the Europa League.