Europa League: Spurs 3 Shamrock Rovers 1 - Tottenham's class tells with three goals in six minutes
DAN CARRIER reports as Spurs beat Shamrock Rovers 3-1 in the Europa League
TRY telling young winger Andros Townsend that the Europa League isn't worth entering. The second half sub was the catalyst for Spurs to sneak through this group stage encounter with their pride in tact. His bustling performance gee'd up those around him - and he was instrumental in all that was good.
But his match winning input to this game shouldn't have been needed: Harry Redknapp actually put out a rather senior side, with five internationals in the shape of Lennon, Pavlyuchenko, Defoe, Corluka and Dos Santos starting, and Walker, Rose and Bassong, all first team squad members, also putting on the all-white European strip.
It meant it felt a little like Harry, for all of his shrugging and insistence that 'I'm playing the kids', wanted to put a few past the Irish champions.
However, it was low key from the off. For a club that sells out all the pre season friendlies - and manages to have boisterous support whilst doing so - the fact there were odd patches of blue seats in the more expensive areas of the ground showed how fnas are voting in these early games.
And it begs the question: what is the value of this European booby prize? Is there anyway we can make it worthwhile? Sure, I want to see us progress, and it'll be deadly serious in the Spring. But this autumn league set up feels like nonsense.
For starters, perhaps making it a straight two legged knock out would help inject a sense of urgency into the proceedings. Secondly, offering the winners a seat in the Champions League the next term could also add some fizz.
However, despite early misgivings as to why we were playing Shamrock Rovers (Eire champions 16 times, FAI Cup winners 24 times, by the way) there is a very good reason not to curse these Thursday nights.
Harry has not traditionally been comfortable blooding youngsters in the Premier League - it has been some time since we've had a genuine youth team prospect turn into a regular first teamer. Having been bundled out of the Carling Cup, these early European nights can give the brighter nippers a chance to gain valuable experience (and to shine), and, as tonight shows, allows some of the first team fringe players the chance to keep sharp in way you just don't get in practice matches. Redknapp brought on more kids in the second half and they all were playing as if a first team spot was up for grabs.
In a bright opening 15, Dos Santos seemed to take things seriously, and buzzed around as if to prove a point. His effort on nine brought a scrambling save from Richard Brush in the Rovers goal, and then five minutes later the Mexican made space for Defoe, whose powerful shot crashed against the keeper and spun on to the bar.
Brush's night got better three minutes later, when he stuck out a massive hand to block Pavlyuchenko's goal bound effort - again, a chance caused by Dos Santos's eagerness. Things quitened down for a while until Danny Rose clipped the post on 33, but otherwise alot of the first half was taken up listening to the Irish reporters gossip in the press box, decipher the rowdy chants from those in green and white, and marvelling at how incredibly young Tom Carroll looks (he appears to have been taken out of my seven year olds community centre team to make up the numbers).
It seemed the second half would be similar, as Spurs started with plenty of the ball but no real penetration. On 50, the unthinkable happened. A well taken free kick by Rovers right winger much. The McCabe was pounded out by Carlo Cudicini: full back Patrick Sullivan drove the ball in to the danger area, Bassong and Cudicini got in a muddle, and defensive midfielder Stephen Rice, who had played well all game, flicked the ball home.
Cue bedlam in the Park Lane end: the reaction of the Rovers fans was such that giving a goal away was almost worth it for the greater good.
The Rovers lead lasted nine minutes: sub Townsend put the ball on Pavyuchenko's head for an equaliser, and you could sense the upset was off. It definitely was a moment later when Townsend again got the better of his marker through direct running and his cross was met by Jermain Defoe. A third soon followed, when Dos Santos gathered a loose ball, again made by Townesend and Defoe combining, and drove home from the right.
3-1, job done, and a good run out for the likes of Tom Carroll, Iago Falque, Harry Kane, Jake Livermore and of course the classy Townsend.
On balance, and with a few tweaks to the system, the Europa League could be quite fun. For Andros Townsend and the 3,000-odd Shamrock fans having a right old party in the away end, I imagine they'd say its worth every single minute.