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Spurs 1-2 PAOK: Foul! Offside? Touchdown? Erm…

Well what a relief that that has been cleared up. Apparently the Defoe goal was disallowed because of a foul committed by Pavluychenko in the fixture played back in Greece in September. Or perhaps for a foul by Graham Roberts in our ’84 UEFA campaign. Or maybe it was Mackay back in ’61. Well, whatever the incident, it was definitely a foul. Or maybe offside. Or Leg Before Wicket.

Mind you, Defoe appeared almost to castrated the chap, so it would have been a bit much to have profited with a goal. Whatever the verdict, that second half was certainly more exciting than the usual Channel 5 fare from our lot, and not too many tears will be shed in this neck of the woods if our Europa campaign coughs politely and sidles off the premises in the coming weeks.

The First Half – Only Marginally Better Than Having A Foot Chopped Off

After the remarkable juggernaut of unstoppableness produced by our lot in recent weeks, our Europa lilywhites came over all misty-eyed and nostalgic, and sweetly reverted to the days of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross. Adopting a formation of sixes and sevens, the back-line in particular displayed quite spectacular ineptitude in that opening 45, viewed at AANP Towers with all the morbid fascination of that scene in the first Saw film when the chap looks at the saw, looks at his foot, looks at the saw, looks back at his foot, and finally decides that if David Beckham can carve out a career as an international superstar with just the one foot then it might be worth the risk.

Ah, that wretched first half. Bassong looked every inch a defender soon to be sold to QPR. Corluka looked every inch a footballer whose pained lumbering is no quicker than the steps of an inebriated rabbit. Rose looked every inch a promising schoolboy decathlete shoved onto a football pitch and told to be a left-back. Pienaar looked every inch the runt of the Predator pack, banished to earth by the cooler Predators on account of his heavy-legged first touch.

On the bright side, Defoe and Modders tore about like a pair of dogs on heat in that first half, while Livermore also earned an approving nod, with that Sandro-esque combo of technique and energy.

Second Half – An Improvement Of Sorts

In the second half, our wily old fox of a manager deduced that the best way to avoid further embarrassment would be at all costs to avoid letting the ball go anywhere near the defence. Thus we spent the entire 45 camped around the Greek area, which at least spared Gallas, Bassong et al any further Chuckle Brothers moments. Alas, PAOK reasonably enough stuck all ten of their remaining men in a neat formation around their own penalty spot, and just about every one of them cleared off the line at some point.

Defeat is never much fun, and the use of 90 minutes’ worth of Modders, Defoe and Lennon is regrettable – but if we make the Top Four this season, an early Europa exit will hardly be lamented.

Spurs – PAOK Preview: Unleash The Muskehounds

Switching from the all-conquering, award-winning, glitz-laden superstars of our rollicking Premiership campaign to the prepubescent kids and want-away squad members on our midweek Europa jaunts is somewhat akin to putting down the Dumas novel in order to tune in to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds – nobody in their right mind would dispute that it remains quite magnificent entertainment, but the whole forum is perhaps a little more frivolous.Thus we march into battle tonight knowing that defeat will do all manner of nastiness to our European campaign, but victory would all but see us through. None of which can really be taken seriously when one considers the red-hot Saturday/Sunday frolics of our first-choice mob in the League.

Still. There is still a cockerel on the shirt, pride at stake and a trophy to be won, eventually. Kane, Carroll, Livermore and Townsend will get their usual opportunities to impress, while Cudicini, Corluka, Gallas, Pienaar and Pav (if fit – and if not, then presumably Defoe) will add sprinklings of élan about the place. The reverse fixture against this lot was jolly hard work, but thus far on our home nights in Europe we have muddled through, so another three points ought to be the target once again tonight. All for one, and all that continental gubbins.

PAOK 0-0 Spurs: First Day at School

AANP’s bosom swells with pride in announcing that the youngest nephew this week began school this week, poor blighter, and similar feelings of satisfaction and reminiscence no doubt occurred to ‘Arry as he sent forth the various assorted whelps and whippersnappers still too young to watch Goodfellas, to do us proud on the corner of some foreign field last night.Encouragingly, to a boy they all seemed happy to play the Tottenham way, possessing an instinct to pick a 10-yard pass at any given time, rather than walloping the ball skywards at the first sniff of trouble. The kids may have lacked a little thrust in the final third, but they can hardly be chastised for this, given that the same affliction has weighed so heavily upon the various feted international strikers – and Peter Crouch – employed over the last 18 months. Livermore seemed pretty determined to demonstrate that he can make it in the big bad world of central midfield without a grown-up holding his hand; the new chap Falque showed the occasional moment of eyebrow-raising, nod-inducing flair; while it is too early to tell whether Harry Kane will make it as a top-level pro at the quite disgusting age of just 17, but whatever career the young blighter embarks upon I suggest that he’ll make a darned good fist of it, for in the field of blistering self-confidence he was mightily well-stocked.

Bar the last few nervy minutes our kids held their own, and were certainly unlucky not to win a penalty, although history suggests we’d have contrived to miss it anyway. If you excuse me a moment of optimistic, misty-eyed speculation, the fact that just about our third choice XI (nine injured, plus another ten rested) can hold PAOK to a draw, in front of what sounded like the blood-thirsty mob from Gladiator,  then we ought to go on and win this whole ruddy nuisance of a competition. With one or two additions our kids could probably see us through the group stages, and thereafter, with the cream of Europe otherwise engaged, I hazard that Bale, Modders and VDV would pulverise all-comers at a canter; but whether it will be worth fielding the big guns in the latter stages, as the Top Four race narrows to its conclusion, is presumably a different kettle of fish.

(As a valedictory note, I leave you with the heart-warming sentiments of PAOK boss Laszlo Boloni: “It was a nice game”. Bless.)

PAOK – Spurs Preview: Babysitting Duties

‘Tis held in some quarters that as a whippersnapper the schoolboy ‘Arry would wile away his hours yelping “Wolf!” with tedious regularity, but on Saturday even the cynics amongst us realised that his “bare bones” mantra could be objectively verified. The adage has it that actions speak louder than words, so when young Giovani was shoved out onto the pitch for a few minutes it became evident that ‘Arry spoke sooth, and our lot really were struggling for personnel. (I’m rather a fan of Giovani as it happens, but that particular can of worms sits aside from the point at hand).While Modders, Bale, Parker and Adebayor are firmly ensconced within great big blankets of cotton wool, back at North London HQ –  and VDV has been excluded altogether from the personnel list for the entire group stage of the Europa League – señor Giovani will join forces with Masters Kane, Carroll, Livermore and chums, to unleash the sort of youthful assault on the senses not seen since unkempt, pre-pubescent beat combo Hanson stormed to the top of the charts. It won’t all be acne and high-pitched voices though, as Pav, Bassong and Corluka will have to suffer the ignominy of babysitting duties tonight, while poor old Gomes has precious little to gain from a one-off appearance like this – play well and it will matter not, Friedel will return on Sunday; but drop a clanger and the pace at which he is chivvied towards the exit door will increase.

While the name is familiar enough, from various European competitions of yesteryear, I confess my knowledge of PAOK Salonika is minimal, and frankly, without wanting to irk the UEFA suits unduly, there is little to suggest that that tonight’s fixture will imprint itself indelibly in the minds of all those who scramble out of the office in time. With a further 15 games (I think) to go in order to win this trophy ‘Arry’s attitude of plain irritation towards it is understandable, and given that the kids are out in force an away draw – with no further injuries – would probably constitute a decent result.

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