A late penalty gave Dnipro a deserved win over Tottenham in the 1st leg of the Europa League clash. Spurs will face a difficult challenge in next week’s return game at White Hart Lane.
Dnipro 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Team: Friedel; Naughton, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Townsend (Eriksen) Bentaleb, Capoue, Paulinho, Chadli; Soldado (Kane) Subs: Archer, Fryers, Veljkovic, McEvoy, Onomah
In a match in which both teams were looking to get forward it was always Dnipro who looked the more dangerous and Konoplyanka deservedly put them ahead from the penalty spot with ten minutes to play after another quick break troubled the Spurs defence.
Tim Sherwood marked his first match in charge of Tottenham in a European game with a strong line-up while having a number of younger players on the bench, including 16-year-old Joshua Onomah.
Following a minute’s silence in Ukraine, the game started in a subdued atmosphere in a sparsely populated stadium on a bumpy pitch with numerous bare patches following the harsh winter weather. There was early pressure from the home team who started brightly working hard all over the pitch. Spurs looked to retain possession but throughout the half their final pass often went astray. This enabled Dnipro to claim possession and they broke quickly running at the Tottenham defence or playing a high ball forward. Both tactics caused Spurs frequent problems with Brad Friedel coming to the rescue.
In such a break after 8 minutes after Paulinho had lost possession deep in the Dnipro half, Spurs got back back in numbers to scramble the ball clear. Two minutes later, Etienne Capoue shot wide from 35 yards after a cross by Rose had been cleared.
Spurs best chance of the half came on 12 minutes when a cross by Nacer Chadli was flicked on at the near post by Roberto Soldado but the goalkeeper was behind him to make an instinctive save.
Dnipro responded with a quick break and Friedel was required to come out of his area to clear. The ball fell to a Dnipro player who shot for goal but Friedel had recovered to claim the ball.
Townsend had a low shot from a central position saved by the goalkeeper but then the home side had a period midway through the half when Matheus had two clear chances to put them ahead. Friedel had to collect the ball on the edge of his area and a minute later he foiled Matheus who was clean through. The experienced goalkeeper then saved a deflected shot from the same player.
Spurs response was immediate as Chadli shot over from a cross by Rose. In the 34th minute a forward pass from Vertonghen found Soldado who put Paulinho clear. He was brought down om the edge of the box with Spurs claiming a penalty. From the free-kick Townsend curled his shot wide.
In the final minutes of the half the home goalkeeper almost presented Spurs with a scoring opportunity when they closed him down. He turned away not realising Soldado was behind him but the loose ball broke in his favour.
After the interval Dnipro again started quickly with two early corners but when Spurs went forward Townsend who had switched to the left wing, almost reached a long ball forward and he then shot weakly when a Soldado header found him on the edge of the area.
Dnipro played a dangerous free-kick into the area and after a shot was blocked as Friedel challenged for the loose ball the striker went down looking for a penalty. A minute later, in the 55th minute Spurs had their best chance of the match when Naughton played the ball forward for Paulinho on the right edge of the area. He played a cross into the six yard box where Soldado, with the goal open, hit the ball over the bar.For the final thirty minutes the game swung from end to end with both sides having chances but Friedel was the busier keeper with the quick breaks by Dnipro proving troublesome to the Spurs defence as they tried to get back to cover. Christian Eriksen replaced Townsend after 63 minutes and almost made an immediate impact with his first touch as he beat the goalkeeper after being set up by Rose but was just offside.
Matheus carrying the ball from deep troubled Spurs throughout the game and his shot after 66 minutes was punched clear by Friedel. Eriksen’s cross found Soldado but his shot took two deflections on its way out for a corner. Friedel saved low at the feet of Giuliano with 20 minutes remaining and then Bentaleb shot over from distance for Spurs.
After 79 minutes Dnipro made the breakthrough. Matheus brought the ball forward and as Vertonghen tried to tackle him on the edge of the area he pulled him back and the referee awarded a penalty. Konoplyanka took it, Friedel dived the right way but the ball struck the inside of the post and went into the goal.
Dnipro should have added to their lead in the final minutes from a free-kick which Spurs failed to defend leaving two attackers free but the ball was scrambled clear.
Round 1 to Juande Ramos and Tottenham know they will face a difficult challenge in the 2nd leg, with Dnipro quick on the counter-attack and very dangerous. The home side won their first European game after their winter break while Spurs lost their first Europa League match of the season.
Tottenham’s short passing game wasn’t suited to the heavy, uneven surface as Dnipro pressed them constantly waiting for a poor pass. They then attacked quickly and Spurs defending was very uncertain to the counter-attack and the long ball forward.
Spurs will need to show a marked improvement if they are to progress to the next round with the wily Ramos determined to make his point to Daniel Levy and Tottenham supporters.