They didn't make it terribly easy, but Tottenham Hotspur were able to grab an important three points against Rubin Kazan on Thursday night, winning 1-0 at White Hart Lane in the UEFA Europa League. Tottenham are now top of Group A on seven points, and have put themselves in a great position to advance to the knockout stage of the competition.
Roman Pavlyuchenko has been the victim of plenty of verbal abuse from fans for his very poor performances in the Carling Cup and Europa League, but he finally showed up on Thursday. It wasn't a spectacular, complete performance, but he scored the winner with a stunning shot and had a couple of other decent shots on target it what was far and away his best performance so far this season.
After the match, Harry Redknapp said that Pav is a 'Top, top player.' and that 'Technically, he's very good, technically.' Harry Redknapp, you are a hero.
The goal was a stunner, incredibly scored on a direct free kick. Free kicks have been a struggle for Spurs, as Rafael van der Vaart has been downright poor shooting from dead balls since his arrival, while Gareth Bale never really panned out as the left-footed Beckham he was pegged as in his teenage years.
Danny Rose won the free kick on a surge forward from left back, drawing a foul and a yellow card on Roman Sharonov. Pavlyuchenko stepped up to take the free kick from 20 yards out and took a rip, perfectly placing his shot on the upper 90 to the left of Sergei Ryzhikov.
That would be the only goal of the game, and honestly, it was the only thing better than a half chance throughout the game. Rubin were on the front foot for the majority of the match and forced a couple of saves out of Gomes, who returned to the lineup for the first time this season, but Spurs never really looked like they were going to concede a goal. The much maligned Sebastien Bassong and out of position midfielder Jake Livermore made a very solid central defense pairing, while fullbacks Danny Rose and Kyle Walker did not have their best games defensively.
Sandro returned and looked very good in the center, making a number of aggressive, pin-point tackles to start counter attacks from his own half. His partner, Tom Carroll had a few good moments of technical skill, but it was obvious that he had taken a step up in competition from previous matches and did not have his best game.
Aaron Lennon had a couple of nice moments, but was played out of position on the left for the majority of the game. Giovani dos Santos played on the right, and did not have a good game. Striker Jermain Defoe struggled as well.
Tottenham substituted on all of Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Younes Kaboul and Luka Modric in the final 15 minutes, and they solidified the team. Rubin began to look threatening between the 60th minutes and when those players entered the game, but the match was even, perhaps slightly favoring Tottenham in the final minutes. Danny Rose did very well when he moved into midfield following BAE's entry, and had a couple of nice runs that led to half-chances or corner kicks.
It was a reasonably uneventful game, but the result was perfect for Spurs. They were able to get three points without starting any of their previously fit first choice players aside from Kyle Walker, and they got some good minutes for their youngsters and key backups that will help the team going forward.