Tottenham Hotspur are through to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League, but they haven't exactly done it in straightforward fashion. They needed some help from the referee and a hotheaded Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk player to gain a main advantage, but they made the most of it, going on to win 3-1 on the day and 3-2 on aggregate.
The first half was so uneventful, it hardly deserves a paragraph in a match report. It was a microcosm of Spurs' entire season: They had lots of the ball and played decent football, but lacked a final ball and created no significant chances. Dnipro played with 11 behind the ball, and based on Tottenham's play, they had good reason to.
There were two massive momentum swings in the match, with the first taking place in the 47th minute. Spurs completely switched off on a set piece right after halftime, allowing Roman Zozulya to get on the end of Ruslan Rotan's ball in and head it into the back of the net. That put Dnipro 2-0 up on aggregate with an away goal, meaning Tottenham had to score three times.
It appeared that a very Spursy finish was incoming when Roberto Soldado had a goal disallowed for offside, but Christian Eriksen managed to get Spurs back in the game not long after. From 25 yards out, he curled a perfect free kick over the Dnipro wall and down, beating Denys Boyko to cut the deficit.
The game changed again for the second time in the 61st minute when Zozulya was sent off. Just before Spurs were to take a free kick, he was spotted headbutting Jan Vertonghen. The Spurs defender oversold it, but it was a headbutt nonetheless, and the referee showed a red card.
Dnipro crumbled from there, allowing Spurs to score the two further goals they needed in very quick succession, both through Emmanuel Adebayor. The first came in the 65th minute on a brilliant cross by Eriksen and was turned in at the near post by Spurs' unmarked forward. Four minutes later, he scored again in even more spectacular fashion, taking a ball from Zeki Fryers down with his chest, then scoring with the outside of his right foot with his second touch.
Down a goal, Dnipro had to come out of their defensive shell. Their biggest chance came in stoppage time, when Michael Dawson was forced to giveaway a free kick off a bad turnover. Yevhen Konoplyanka hit a shot on target, but Hugo Lloris made an excellent save to preserve the result for Spurs.
- Okay, so, the red. It was a red because Zozulya headbutted Vertonghen. That's not really up for debate. But the way Vertonghen sold it was embarrassing and he should have been booked for that.
- Man advantage or not, we scored the goals. We had to find a way to hit the back of the net three times and we did.
- Having Sandro back is so nice.
- Zeki Fryers might be better than Danny Rose
- This Christian Eriksen guy is decent, did we just sign him? I didn't see him play this weekend so I assume he's new.
- Oh my god poor Roberto Soldado.
- Let's go, Benfica.