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MATCH REPORT

Mission impossible proved just that

A 4-0 win away at Shamrock Rovers was not enough for Tottenham to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

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Shamrock Rovers 0

Tottenham Hotspur 4

(Pienaar – 29, Townsend – 38, Defoe – 45, Kane – 90)

A 4-0 win away at Shamrock Rovers was not enough for Tottenham to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

The Younes Kaboul led side needed to win by a five-goal margin and hope that PAOK defeated Russian side Rubin Kazan to progress.

However, with the top two sides grinding out a score-draw, any win wouldn’t have been enough for Spurs to qualify from Group A.

Harry Redknapp made a number of changes from the side that lost to Stoke City at the weekend, only Kaboul and Benoit Assou-Ekotto surviving the cut as the manager opted to take only 15 players with him to Dublin.

The initial encounters past without much incident, Jermain Defoe letting fly from the edge of the box on a couple occasions while a Danny Rose cross rebounded back off the crossbar while at the other end, the Irish champions failed to test Carlo Cudicini with numerous half-chances.

It wasn’t until the half-hour mark that the deadlock was broken, Steven Pienaar picking up the ball on the right-hand side of the box before driving home past Richard Brush in the Rovers net to make it 1-0, and see the South African open his Spurs account since his move at the beginning of the year.

A wonderful counter-attacking move saw Defoe fail to make enough contact on Giovani Dos Santos’ cross while Niko Kranjcar, making his first appearance since September, tested Brush with a low drive before Spurs doubled the advantage in the 38th minute.

Rose played in Defoe, who in turn laid off for Andros Townsend to curl a delightful effort into the far corner with the winger’s weaker foot.

And it was 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, Defoe controlling Townsend’s low cross before the England man fired home to give the away team hope that they could achieve the impossible and qualify.

With PAOK leading in Greece, Spurs were expected to push on to narrow the goal margin on Rubin but it was Rovers who started the brighter in the second half, Billy Dennehy and Stephen O’Donnell coming close for Michael O’Neill’s side.

But it wasn’t long before the North London outfit were back on the offensive with Sandro hitting the post and Pienaar and Townsend both having shots blocked by the opposition defence.

Chris Turner headed wide for Rovers before Kranjcar’s dipping effort flew inches wide of the post and Yago Falque, introduced in the 83rd minute, struck the post just moments after coming on.

However, it was 4-0 with the clocking ticking towards the 90 minute mark, Harry Kane, who had replaced Defoe with 20 minutes remaining, fired home from close-range after Townsend’s knock-down allowing the youngster to open his senior account for Spurs.

It wasn’t enough to qualify however as 10-man Rubin managed a draw in Greece that saw both the Russian side and PAOK qualify for the next round of the tournament.

What Redknapp had to say

“We did ever so well. At half time obviously we knew that the other team were losing and I thought we had a real chance then, if we could get another goal,” the Spurs boss said after the 4-0 win.

“I thought maybe with them (Rubin) being down to ten men, I could see the Greek team winning by a couple of goals and I thought, well maybe four goals would be enough for us tonight.”

Man of the match

Niko Kranjcar was excellent in the middle of the park after recovering from a thigh strain to make his first start since the 2-0 win over Wolves back in September. A constant threat from the midfield, the Croatian may have been lacking match fitness but the gulf in class was evident from the first whistle, often controlling play with a number of exquisite passes.

Moment of the match

This actually came from the other game in Group A between PAOK and Rubin Kazan. The Greek side took the lead after 16 minutes through a Vieirinha penalty and with the second placed side down to 10-men, it had been expected that the group leaders would push on for the win. However, Nelson Valdez levelled up matters after 48 minutes and the Russian outfit held out for the draw to seal qualification for the next round of the Europa League. 

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