Tottenham Hotspur 1 PAOK Thessaloniki 2
Just like that, the onrushing train roared through White Hart Lane, knocking down the green signal and before you could catch your breath it was gone, the signal was red, and the night was dark and silent. And Tottenham was pretty much finished and done in Europe this season. The loss to PAOK for all intents and purposes eliminates the Spurs and no reasonable man or woman will think other wise.
They are in 3rd in group A and have garnered a mere 7 points with one match to play. PAOK is top of the group at 11 points, 1 up on 2nd place Rubin Kazan at 10. There is not a chance of Tottenham catching Rubin Kazan, even if Kazan loses their next match to PAOK which is played on the 15th of December in Thessaloniki. Tottenham plays Shamrock Rovers in Dublin the same day, but there is no chance that Spurs will drub Rovers enough to make any ground on Rubin Kazan. A Rubin loss and Spurs win would leave both tied at 10 points, but Kazan has the tie-break on goal differential, a +5.
So not bloody likely. Rubin Kazan has shown than can score goals, even if the lose, they generally get on the scoreboard. Their only wobble was, ironically their tilt at White Hart Lane where Spurs nipped them 1-0 on a goal by the now maligned/injured Roman Pavluchenko at the 33 minute mark. If Rubin Kazan draws or wins, it’s definitely all over. But realistically, it’s all over right now. Harry might as well bring a bunch of donkeys to Dublin in a fortnight’s time.
AS for the match itself, PAOK had it sown up at the 14 minute mark when Stefanos Athanasiadis tapped in a low ball across the from Giorgos Georgiadis for a 0-2 lead. Spurs took a leaf from the book of Chelsea’s defense of late. PAOK went a man down at the 35 minute mark on a Konstantinos Stafylidis handball. Luka Modric stepped up to the plate and smacked the penalty kick home. With 10 men, PAOK held on for the win and not even the mighty Gareth Bale could save the day.
So Spurs are all knocked down. But England will be well represented in the Europa League with Stoke City atop Group E and Fulham a solid 2nd in Group K. Birmingham City is in a similar train ride as Spurs. But no one really expected Birmingham to do anything more in Europe than show up for work. But they’ve done fairly well, and their hopless scenario is a quite a bit more plausible. They are at 7, Brugge at 10. Final game for City is against Maribor who they beat 1-2 in Slovenia. They need to win big at home next month, but the goal differential is do-able, 2 goals. Brugge finishes at home against Braga….SPORTING Braga, for those of you keeping score at O’Keefe’s House of Hamburg in Milwaukee ((where I will be found as soon as this post reaches 500 words)), which is right about now.
RIP Gary Speed 1969-2011.