Benfica 2 Tottenham Hotspur 2 match report: Tim Sherwood sings Spurs’ praises after Nacer Chadli and Harry Kane inspire fightback
Benfica win 5-3 on aggregate
the estadio da luz
Friday 21 March 2014
Tim Sherwood’s change of outfit nearly brought a change of fortune for Tottenham as they came tantalisingly close to completing one of their finest European comebacks.
Sherwood swapped the casual look, including the infamous gilet, for a suit and tie as he chose to sit in the stands rather than the dug-out. The manager of Leeds United in the 1960s and ’70s, Don Revie, would often swear by his lucky blue suit. Had Tottenham progressed to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, Sherwood might have become similarly superstitious.
With 12 minutes left Benfica led 1-0 and were cruising into the quarter-finals with a 4-1 aggregate lead, against a Spurs side who were tidy in possession but rarely threatening.
Then Sherwood sent on youngster Harry Kane for the ineffective Roberto Soldado and the impact was immediate. First, Kane flicked a long kick from Brad Friedel into the path of Nacer Chadli, who swept inside from the left and beat Jan Oblak at his near post from 20 yards.
A minute later, the pair combined again. Kane headed back Aaron Lennon’s cross for Chadli – who missed two simple chances in last Sunday’s derby defeat by Arsenal – to score his second.
Benfica were suddenly overcome by jitters. Gylfi Sigurdsson twice squandered good chances, while Kane might have been awarded a penalty when was shoved in the back by Guilherme Siqueira.
Benfica could not feel safe until the final act of the game, when substitute Lima converted a penalty he had won after being fouled by Sandro. But with no senior centre-back available, and several other key players injured, Sherwood could feel proud of his team – and he could not resist a dig at Benfica’s coach Jorge Jesus, with whom Sherwood clashed repeatedly in the Portuguese club’s 3-1 win at White Hart Lane last week.
What particularly piqued Sherwood was the three fingers that Jesus waved in his direction immediately after Benfica’s third goal. “I didn’t see a suave character on the sidelines tonight; it was someone who was really sweating,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a football manager or the man in the street, you should respect each other. Congratulations to him: he’s got the chance to wave his fingers at a few more managers in this competition.
“I sat in the stands to get a better view and to take some steam out of it,” he added. “I didn’t want the flare-up to take away from what we did on the pitch. The concentration was on the pitch and we played better than them.
“People speculated, but I think it’s evident the players are on my side and the side of the club. My little rant [when he questioned the players’ character after the 4-0 defeat at Chelsea] has done them no harm. They showed real character and real guts, and they need to do that until the end of the season. I’m confident they will do that.
“As much as we’re disappointed, to be coming here 3-1 down and still be disappointed shows how well they did. It was a real effort and they showed real spirit. No one’s going to want to be playing Tottenham. When they see what we can do when we play well, it’ll be a fixture people will want to stay away from.”
Midfielder Sandro was paired with youngster Zeki Fryers in central defence, and the latter was particularly impressive. But after Soldado had wasted an excellent early chance, Benfica moved ahead 10 minutes before half-time. Spurs did not make a proper job of clearing a corner on the right and when the ball reached Eduardo Salvio, he held off Lennon before crossing for the unmarked Ezequiel Garay to head past Friedel.
The second half appeared to be meandering towards the final whistle until Chadli struck twice and revived the tie. Luisao made a stretching clearance to stop Sigurdsson reaching Lennon’s cross after Nabil Bentaleb – another bright light for Spurs – had sent the winger clear.
Kane’s effective contribution cast Soldado’s drab display in an even harsher light, but Sherwood leapt to the Spanish forward’s defence after a caustic tweet from former Tottenham striker Gary Lineker, which he later claimed was a joke. Sherwood said: “He needs as much help as he can get and he will certainly be getting it from within our club. Gary was a top player, so give him a bit of slack.”
Man of the match Salvio.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee D Skomina (Slovenia).
Europa League: Quarter-final teams
Real Betis or Seville
Draw is made in Nyon on Friday
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