The Europa League campaign of 2011/12 had produced divided opinion amongst Tottenham supporters. After the Champions League season the year before many saw the Europa League as a non-event and something that would distract the side from their attempts to return to the top table the next season. Others felt that we were in Europe and should attempt to win the trophy.
Spurs would be drawn with Hearts in the play-off round the first leg in Edinburgh. Dave Mackay the legend at both clubs attended both games although he was in poor health. The first leg before sixteen thousand saw Spurs sweep into the Group stages with a 5-0 win. The visitors opening the scoring in the fourth minute through Rafel Van der Vaart. Then Defoe added another in the 12th minute as the Londoners showed the gap between the two sides. Livermore before the break followed by Bale and Lennon rounding the game off. Harry Redknapp made nine changes for the return including several young players and the game was a 0-0 and forgettable match. Redknapp said afterwards that it was a balancing act playing the kids. He had made his feelings clear and pointed out ‘its one of those competitions that teams get in to and try and get out as quickly as possible.
The group stage saw us open in Greece as Spurs played out a 0-0 draw. Redknapp made ten changes from the previous league game giving the side an average age of 23 in a hostile arena. Carlo Cudicini made several good saves for Spurs. PAOK were awarded what looked a harsh penalty and scored but a retake was ordered which was sent wide.
Left - Livermore V Hearts
Shamrock Rovers then came to White Hart Lane and they brought more than three thousand fans with them who enlighten the evening. Spurs again played a very inexperienced side. It took to the early part of the second half to produce a goal and it was Rovers who got it. Tottenham were shaken into going up a gear Townsend crossed and Pavlycuchenko put us level. Then De Santos made Defoe’s goal to give us the lead. The same pair then combined and Giovani finished the scoring.
The third game saw the Russian side FC Rubin Kazan at the Lane the only goal came from Pavlycuchenko who scored against his countrymen.
A lovely strike in to the top corner just after the half hour from a free kick. Redknapp’s balancing act was a mixture with a number of youngsters appearing.
Right - Townsend V Rovers
Spurs called several experienced players off the bench to ensure Tottenham reached the half way point of the group in an excellent position.
Harry Redknapp missed the return game having undergone heart surgery and watched the game on TV. Not what the doctor would have ordered as a young side struggled to contain the home side and hardly threatened their goal. Yet it was the experienced Bassong whose mistake led to the only goal of the game.
Spurs now needed to win to ensure they would go through. The last home group game was a performance not much more enjoyable than the previous game as PAOK came to the Lane. Once again an uninspired game and simple errors led to the Greeks taking the lead in the opening minutes. Worse was to come and just a few minutes later we were two down.
It was 1-2 at half time when Modric scored from a penalty and they had had a man sent off. Spurs did have a goal disallowed on a night we were poor. Redknapp informed the supporters we would not qualify, even though it was still possible which did not impress the supporters as the Greeks celebrated being only the fourth team ever to win a European game at White Hart Lane.
That last game saw us visit Shamrock Rovers. To qualify we needed Rubin to lose and a big change in the goal difference. The players did their part as we went three goals up. Stephen Pienaar had opened the scoring, Townsend and Defoe added the others. At half time we heard that Rubin had gone a goal behind and were a man down in Greece. The fans thought we might actually do it even if the manager wasn’t too keen on the idea. Tottenham struggled to score in the second half with Harry Kane scoring to make it 4-0 and Rubin had pulled level.
Thus Tottenham were out before Christmas. Harry Redknapp informed us that everything had gone to plan despite a bad fifteen minutes against PAOK. The plan, which had seen us win just once, of 'playing the kids' which would of helped us return to the Champions League the following season also failed and another Europa campaign lay ahead.
Above - Kranjcar V Rovers.
Top Picture - Tom Carroll V Rubin
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Other look backs of our time in Europe include - Gornik (Hotspur Towers 25),
The First Adventure (Hotspur Towers 39), Benfica First Leg & Second Leg,
The First Europeans, Glasgow Rangers parts 1-2, Slovan Bratislava (Hotspur Towers 72),
OFK Belegrade, Atletico Madrid, The Legacy, White Hot Lane, ECWC '64, UEFA Cup 2007
Flying Down to Rio
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The Road to Turin
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