Tottenham have taken the outright lead in Group A of the Europa League with a controlled 1-0 victory over Rubin Kazan at White Hart Lane tonight.
Spurs were without the likes of Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart, Emmanuel Adebayor, Scott Parker and Brad Friedel but still managed to keep out a talented Kazan outfit who have matched Barcelona in the Champions League in recent years.
Roman Pavlyuchenko provided the only goal of the game and it was a special one with the Russian giving the North Londoners the ascendency over his fellow countrymen in the 33rd minute. Spurs won a free-kick outside the area and after a few minutes of confusion the set-piece was finally taken with Pavlyuchenko absolutely hammering the dead ball from the top of the ‘D’ into the top right corner.
Earlier, Heurelho Gomes came to the rescue of his side with a brilliant save from Deniz Karadeniz’ pointblank header as he got clear at the back post to meet a pinpoint Salvatore Bocchetti cross from the left before Spurs went so close four minutes later after Sebastien Bassong made a barnstorming run forward before supplying for Jermain Defoe whose angled, aerial shot from the right side of the area was inches from sliding in off the far upright.
Gomes was it again early in the second half with a vital save as Rubin searched for an equaliser before Christiano Noboa should have done better when the ball fell perfectly for him in front of goal but he scuffed his attempt.
Tottenham had another good chance in the 72nd minute when Aaron Lennon looped a ball from the right flank to the back post where Defoe was on hand to head goalward but Rubin keeper Sergey Ryzhikov was able to palm it away.
Spurs substitute Younes Kaboul made himself useful late in the piece when Obafemi Martins found space in the area but the former Newcastle United striker’s attempt was snuffed out by the French centre-back as the home side held out for a crucial win which sees them go three points clear of tonight’s opponents.
Europa League Group A
Tottenham Hotspur (ENG): 1 (Roman Pavlyuchenko 33’)
Rubin Kazan (RUS): 0
White Hart Lane, London – 24,058
Yellow cards: TOT - nil
RUB - Roman Sharonov 32’, Alexey Eremenko 82’