Harry Redknapp did not give the impression of a man whose sleep would be haunted by Spurs' likely elimination from the Europa League. After his side's defeat to PAOK last night, the Tottenham manager did insist that he was "disappointed because we are not going to be in the last 32". He was clear, though, where he laid his priorities. "You can't have it all ways," he said. "The important thing is that we have the players fresh for the Premier League at the weekend."
Tottenham, as it happens, do have a slim chance of progress: they need to beat Shamrock Rovers heavily in their last game, and for the now-qualified PAOK to do the same to Rubin Kazan. But, having taken 28 from their last available 30 league points, their domestic focus is understandable.
Despite that, last night's starting XI was stronger than expected, including Luka Modric, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe. Experience is not the same thing as application, though, as Spurs' defending demonstrated. First, William Gallas carelessly discarded possession near the half-way line. Giorgos Georgiadis bolted forward and crossed to Dimitris Salpingidis who, with a polite nod of his head, directed the ball past goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.
Soon after, Vedran Corluka, not a man to break into a sweat where he can possibly avoid it, stood admiringly as Georgiadis ran beyond him and received Pablo Garcia's pass. Again, Georgiadis crossed precisely, and this time it was Stefanos Athanasiadis who tapped in. "Two terrible goals," as Redknapp described them.
Spurs, ponderous but also imprecise, struck back six minutes before the interval. Harry Kane's net-bound shot appeared to hit Kostas Stafylidis on the arm, referee Hendrikus Nijhuis deemed it deliberate and sent off Stafylidis: replays suggested it was tough on the defender. Modric scored the penalty, and Spurs went into the break one goal behind.
Having been reminded of what was expected of them, Spurs started the second half much improved, winning the ball back quickly and dominating possession. Kane and Steven Pienaar missed good chances, and when Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker came on, an equaliser felt certain.
Defoe had a goal disallowed with Pablo Contreras lying prone on the line with an apparent head injury. The referee further endeared himself to White Hart Lane by denying a penalty after Lennon was brought down in the box.
The chances, the scrambles and the appeals were so many and so varied it is hard to understand how Spurs failed to score. But PAOK kept them out, ensuring they will progress in the new year.
Tottenham (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Gallas, Bassong, Rose (Bale, 62); Lennon, Livermore, Modric, Pienaar (Walker, 67); Defoe, Kane (Falque, 71).
PAOK Salonika (4-2-3-1): Chalkias; Etto, Malezas, Contreras (Cirillo, 81), Stafylidis; Lazar (Arias, 83), Pablo Garcia; Salpingidis, Fotakis, Georgiadis (Sznaucner, 62); Athanasiadis
Referee Bas Nijhuis (Netherlands).Reuse content