Rubin Kazan 1 – 0 Spurs: Report & Positives From The Game
Last nights game at Central Stadium was always going to be tough for Spurs, no matter which team had been picked. Rubin Kazan have some experienced heads from Russian League and European football and they showed it with a commanding performance against a Spurs team that had a mix of youth and experience. Some of the youngsters will take some vital learnings away from this game that could well stand them in good stead for their futures. The majority of the more experienced players will want to forget this match quickly.
Carlo Cudicini is one player who can hold his head up high after a fine performance but even he couldn’t have done anything about Natcho’s superb 56th minute free kick. Were it not for Cudicini, with at least three top draw saves, Natcho would have had another and Rubin could have had four or five.
It had all started pretty well for Spurs. Jake Livermore showed his intentions to take no prisoners early on by pulling down a pitch invader with only minutes on the clock. This set the early tone with Spurs controlling the ball, Carroll and Livermore in particular looking impressive under a lot of pressure from Rubin. As the game wore on Carroll tired but at times he looked every bit the future replacement for Luka Modric that this blog and many others have hailed him to be. He was always keen to get the ball, dropping into space and looking to keep things moving with quick passing and movement. Unfortunately, as predicted in this blogs match preview, Spurs lacked creativity and cutting edge in the final third with the ball rarely getting near Defoe or Pavlyuchenko. Steven Pienaar just coming back from injury worked hard and put a lot of effort in but is clearly not match sharp. He was too easily muscled off the ball and his passing too loose. Or as many have said, he’s just not very good. He’ll get the benefit of the doubt for now.
After Spurs initial control of the ball, Rubin began to impose their will on the game. The Russian side were clearly aware of Spurs weaknesses at full back – two young wingers playing out of position, while Kyle Naughton is playing well at Norwich on loan?? Hmmm?? – and began to take advantage of this situation. Natcho and Noboa started to find the wide men with increasing regularity and Cudicini along with the returning Gallas – shame that he had to go off after 71 minutes and it’s to be hoped it’s not anything serious – had to work hard to clear the danger on a number of occassions. As the first half wore on, it seemed a Kazan goal was inevitable and Kevin Bond will have been happy to see his side come in level at the break.
It was obvious though that unless Spurs could find a way to get Defoe into the game and Pavlyuchenko motivated enough to try that it was going to continue to be an uphill struggle. And a struggle it was as neither front man ever got into the game, with Spurs failing to register a shot on target. This was despite the occassional piece of skill from Falque, a player who can on the whole be pleased with his contribution.
Rubin’s breakthrough came after a clumsy and unnecessary tackle by Bassong on the edge of the box gave away a free kick. Not only did that tackle earn him and a complaining Defoe yellow cards it presented the impressive Natcho – allegedly being watched by a number of Premier League clubs – the chance to hit the free kick. He didn’t so much hit it, as caress it over the wall and into the net as Cudicini could do nothing but watch from the other side of goal.
From that point Kazan tried to press their advantage while Spurs seemed a bit shell shocked. Kazan had more chances but again Cudicini was the hero keeping them at bay. As the half wore on, Spurs showed some attacking intent but still lacked a final ball or moment of magic. It’s at times like these when reality strikes, and no matter how impressive some of the youngsters are, there is no substitute for the world class abilities of a van der Vaart or Modric to provide a wonder goal or unlock a defence.
Spurs may well have lost their first Europa League tie this season and some of the performances were below par, Bassong, Defoe and Pavlyuchenko I’m mainly looking at you, but it must be stressed that there were many positives to take from this. Rubin Kazan are no mugs, two years ago they beat Barcelona at the Nou Camp and have two decent Champions League campaigns behind them. In Bocchetti, Navas, Karadeniz, Kasaev, Noboa and especially Natcho they have some excellent players with vast experience.
That Spurs youth and second string have beaten them at home and narrowly lost in a tough atmosphere and freezing conditions is no shame. The experience of an away trip like this one, is something that you just can’t buy as a professional and players like Tom Carroll will grow from this despite the result. Ryan Fredericks and Andros Townsend may well have been played out of position but as wingers this will stand them in good stead and help them understand what a full back has to do to stop them. Jake Livermore continues to grow and take responsibility and his versatility may well see him become a vital squad member for years to come. Spurs still have two games left, away to Shamrock and home to PAOK to settle qualification for the Round of 32 and there is no reason to doubt that the Lilywhites will do so.
You can watch a video of the Natcho free kick here
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