PAOK Salonika are through to the next phase of the Europa League following an action-packed 2-1 victory over Tottenham at White Hart Lane tonight.
The Greek outfit scored twice in the opening 15 minutes before defender Kostas Stafylidis was controversially sent off late in the first half for handling the ball on Tottenham’s goal-line.
Spurs got one back through the ensuing penalty, converted by Luka Modric, but they could not break down a determined and mainly disciplined PAOK defence who went top of Group A with no chance of missing out on the knockout stages.
The travelling PAOK fans were deafening even before kick-off and they were making plenty of noise just five minutes in when Giorgos Georgiadis crossed from the left for an unmarked Dimitris Salpingidis to head home past a hapless Heurelho Gomes to make it three goals in his last two Europa outings.
Less than ten minutes later, the visitors were jumping again when Stefanos Athanasiadis got his name on the scoresheet when he finished a flowing move from the Greeks which ended in another neat Georgiadis cross from the left. 22-year old Athanasiadis managed to slide home the low pass for his second group stage goal putting the home side in some real bother.
The PAOK balloon had some air let out if it less than ten minutes before half-time in rather unfortunate circumstances when Stafylidis was sent off after being adjudged to have handled the ball on the goal-line. Vedran Corluka headed goalward from a corner which was cleared off the line by the left-back with Harry Kane volleying it straight back at him forcing contact to be made. Replays showed that the ball actually struck the chest of Stafylidis but nonetheless, referee Bas Nijhuis brandished a red and Luka Modric stepped up to send Kostas Chalkias the wrong way to put Spurs back in the contest in the 39th minute.
Tottenham had the ball in the back of the net for a second time early in the second half when Modric’s free-kick from the left was knocked in by William Gallas but the linesman had his flag up for offside as the home fans started to lift.
Minutes later, Kane was inches away with a backpost header as the home side began to press hard for a leveler and Jake Livermore wasn’t far away with a 66th minute bullet as Spurs really showed their intent.
There was plenty of confusion with about 15 minutes remaining when PAOK defender Pablo Contreras was injured in a collision with Defoe after he cleared Iago Falque’s shot off the line and after a goalmouth scramble, Defoe put the ball in the back of the net. However, the goal did not stand and Contreras had to be replaced as Spurs fans felt harshly done by.
Late in the match, Spurs had plenty of chances to equalise with substitute Gareth Bale lashing over the crossbar twice, Aaron Lennon going down in the area with a shout for a penalty, Falque’s curling left-footer heading just wide of the mark and PAOK keeper Chalkias tipping over the bar in injury-time from a non-threatening Gallas header.
But PAOK, with fans in full voice, got the job done in the end and now Spurs will have to comfortably beat Shamrock Rovers and hope that PAOK defeat Rubin Kazan on match-day 6 as they sit three points and goal difference behind the second-placed Russians.
Yellow cards: TOT - nil
PAOK - Etto 46’, Stefanos Athanasiadis 90+2’
Red card: PAOK - Kostas Stafylidis 38’