Hotspur Towers - UEFA Cup 2007
After an absence of six years Tottenham returned to European action in 2006/07. Slavia Prague were our opponents in the first round. That first game would be our 100th in European competition. It was however a game that nearly did not take place. Later in the competition there was a tie that was not played. Spurs would progress to the quarter finals. Along the way the group stage would see us take on Bayer Leverkusen with their former star Dimitar Berbatov playing a major role.
Spurs were drawn away to Slavia Prague in the UEFA Cup first round. At that point ENIC owned 32% of the shares in Tottenham. They also owned a similar interest in Slavia. The question was raised with UEFA about a conflict of interest but the UEFA director of communications announced “There is o Spurs were drawn away to Slavia Prague in the UEFA Cup first round. At that point ENIC owned 32% of the shares in Tottenham. They also owned a similar interest in Slavia. The question was raised with UEFA about a conflict of interest but the UEFA director of communications announced “There is only considered to be a conflict of interest if one company has a controlling stake in both of the clubs." Things got even better when Hearts were drawn against Sparta Prague in the same competition. To avoid two games in Prague on the same night the Hearts game was swopped to Edinburgh. Leaving Tottenham’s Damien Comolli to say “It's a draw against a competitive side who have some good younger players. We will be at home in the second leg, so that's a good."
Tottenham were the better side in the first leg and the only goal of the game came in the 37th minute when Didlier Zokora set up Jermaine Jenas to score from the edge of the box. Tottenham had not started the season well and struggled to overcome Prague in the 50th European tie played at WHL. The game finishing with the same score line when Robbie Keane netted with ten minutes to play.
That took us into the group stage. At that time the groups had five teams and we played our opponents only once. First up was a tie away to Besikas of Turkey for the clubs first competitive game in the country before the usual hostile crowd. We returned having won 2-0. The first coming from Ghaly just after the half hour whose first shot came back off the goalie and he bundled home. (Ghalys goal top image). Then just after the hour Berbatov with a great solo effort saw him dummy the keeper before scoring.
The first team at White Hart Lane was FC Burges. The visitors surprised Spurs by taking the lead but just a few minutes later Berbatov having another good game brought Spurs level. Keane put us ahead around the hour mark and Berbatov got his second. We then traveled to Germany where Dimitar received a warm welcome back and then he scored the only goal of the night, which he didn't celebrate (above). Keane and Lennon had combined and he had a simple finish to ensure we would progress to the knock out stages.
The group finished with Dinamo Bucharest the guests. It was Dimitar Barbatov again who opened our account with an effort from outside the box after the keepers mistake. Jermain Defoe then scored twice either side of the break. These were his first in European action and the press felt we were one of the favourites for the trophy.
We were due to meet Feyenoord in the third round. Crowd trouble earlier in the competition saw them expelled from the competition and Spurs progressed. Spurs than traveled to Sporting Braga. In a game that Spurs dominated but just could not score. The first goal finally arrived with just over twenty minutes to play with Keane scoring. Then a Lennon shot came back and Malbranque (left) gave us a two goal lead.
Then with the fans relaxing Sporting hit back to level the scores and only a last minute goal, Keane’s second, gave Spurs a slim lead from a night when they should have sown up the tie. Back at The Lane Braga pulled the tie to 3-3 from an own goal. Tottenham struck back within five minutes again Berbatov again being on target and just before the half time whistle gave us the lead on the night. Braga kept the tie alive when they scored again but with a quarter of an hour to play Berbatov this time set Malbranque loose to make it 3-2 on the night and sent us into the quarter final.
This saw us travel to Sevilla the cup holders and take the lead in the second minute with Robbie Keane (left) netting. Sevilla were level after twenty minutes when former Spur Freddie Kanoute equalizing from the penalty spot. Then before the break they took the lead and that is how it finished. There was trouble in the stands but a number of neutral observers felt that it had been caused by the police. A night that started so well ending badly.
The second leg saw both the players and fans surprised as instead of defending Sevilla came at Tottenham and were two goals up inside ten minutes. The second coming from Kanoute on his return to WHL. Tottenham finally seemed to get going but the damage was done. Defore scored and then Lennon made it 2-2 on the night but needing another two goals to avoid going out Spurs slipped out of the competition.
Sevilla would retain the trophy that season and their manager one Juande Ramos and would later move to Spurs. Tottenham’s return to Europe had seen some great games and their fifth place finish would see them compete in the competition again the following season.
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