Ramos inflicts Sherwood’s third cup defeat as Dnipro defeat Spurs in Europa League
20:06 20 February 2014
Europa League last 32: Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk 1 Tottenham 0
Tottenham were condemned to defeat by an 81st-minute penalty in Ukraine as former Spurs boss Juande Ramos inflicted Tim Sherwood’s third successive cup defeat.
Sherwood had previously overseen the Lilywhites’ exits from the League Cup and FA Cup, and the north Londoners were defeated in the first leg of their Europa League tie with Dnipro tonight.
Tottenham had previously enjoyed a perfect record in Europe this season, winning all eight of their continental fixtures under Andre Villas-Boas.
However, they were undone in eastern Europe as Jan Vertonghen conceded a late penalty against the tricky Brazilian Matheus Nascimento, and Yevhen Konoplyanka – who nearly joined Liverpool in January – beat Brad Friedel from the spot.
Sherwood left a host of first-team players at home, including No1 goalkeeper Hogo Lloris, but he still fielded a strong side featuring eight internationals, including £26million summer signing Roberto Soldado.
On the other hand, the bench certainly had a youthful look to it and, with 16-year-old Joshua Onomah, 18-year-old Milos Veljkovic and 19-year-old Kenny McEvoy sitting alongside goalkeeper Jordan Archer, Zeki Fryers, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, the reserves had an average age of 19.
Konoplyanka showed his talent early on, skipping past Kyle Naughton and delivering a low cross which was flicked wide at the near post.
However, Spurs had the first real effort at goal as Nacer Chadli crossed from the left flank and Soldado headed against goalkeeper Denys Boyko, who got lucky after rushing out to claim the cross and getting there too late.
Dnipro had a purple patch just before the half-hour mark, with Spurs allowing Matheus acres of space to collect a long ball, take a touch and try to slot past the hopelessly exposed Brad Friedel – but the American saved.
Vertonghen, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho then failed to get the ball away on the edge of the box, and Matheus tested Friedel with a low snapshot, while Roman Zozulya swung and missed on the rebound.
Spurs eventually cut their opponents open as Paulinho raced through on goal, but he was brought down right on the edge of the box by Ivan Strinic, who got a yellow card when there might have been an argument for a red – and Andros Townsend fired wide from the resulting free-kick.
Spurs then survived a similar moment at the other end of the field as Danny Rose levered Zozulya off the ball on the edge of the area.
It had been a poor first-half display from Tottenham – a mixture of aimless long balls and over-elaborate backheels and first-time passes on a very difficult surface – and the quality on show in the first period was typified when Boyko tried a clever turn in his box but ran into Soldado, who was unable to capitalise as the ball ran away.
The second half was more entertaining, and it started with another penalty appeal as the ball ran loose in the Spurs box following an awkward inswinging free-kick.
Friedel ran out and Zozulya went over after leaving a trailing, outstretched leg – but the referee booked the Dnipro man for simulation.
Tottenham then had their big moment to take the lead as Paulinho put a perfect low delivery across the goalmouth for Soldado, who was left with an open goal four yards out, but he shot over the bar.
Christian Eriksen came off the bench and nearly made an instant impact, putting the ball into the net after some fine skills from Rose, but the Dane was adjudged to be offside.
It had become an end-to-end affair, and Dawson had to dive to block a Konoplyanka shot before Fridel palmed away a Matheus effort, while Nabil Bentaleb went down inside the box but got nothing from the referee.
Back came Dnipro, and Giuliano Victor de Paula wriggled through the vulnerable Spurs defence before being denied by Friedel eight yards out, while Ondrej Mazuch headed over from a right-wing cross.
It was the hosts who eventually got the breakthrough as Matheus played a one-two with Zozulya on the halfway line, burst through and was tugged back by Vertonghen. The referee pointed to the spot, and Knonoplyanka put the ball into the net via the left post to score for the fourth consecutive game in the Europa League.
Tottenham had a golden opportunity to equalise as substitute Harry Kane flicked the ball on from a corner, but Chadli was unable to get a killer touch at the back post.
Having come so close to an equaliser, Spurs very nearly found themselves 2-0 down at the death as Zozulya headed against the post in a dramatic finish – but the Ukrainians had to settle for a one-goal lead ahead of next Thursday’s second leg at White Hart Lane.
Tottenham: Friedel, Naughton, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose, Capoue, Bentaleb, Paulinho, Chadli, Townsend (Eriksen 64), Soldado (Kane 85).
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