Two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor helped Tottenham mount a second-half comeback to beat 10-man Dnipro 3-1 at White Hart Lane and progress to the Round of 16 of the Europa League and a tie with Benfica, 3-2 on aggregate.
After a 1-0 loss in Dnipropetrovsk last week, Tottenham’s task looked a daunting one when Roman Zozulya headed home two minutes into the second half. Needing three goals at that stage to progress, Christian Eriksen soon got the first by curling in a free-kick. Just minutes later, a further boost came when Dnipro were crucially reduced to 10 men. The visitors’ goal-scorer was sent on his way after puting his head into the face of Jan Vertonghen, who certainly made the most of the minimal contact. Dnipro’s frustration at the decision will have been furthered by the fact that Roberto Soldado escaped sanction in the first half for what was at least an equally severe retaliation.
Tottenham, now finally with a head of steam, took full advantage of their numerical advantage. Adebayor came to the fore once more, scoring twice in four minutes to get his seventh goal in his last seven appearances.
Tim Sherwood had claimed that his side would come out all guns blazing in an effort to turn the tie around and there were some early signs of that. From Adebayor’s nod down, Eriksen struck a clean effort that took a deflection to loop just over the bar. But after the initial impetus, Tottenham slipped into a similar lackluster tempo to that which plagued them in defeat to Norwich on Sunday. Dnipro, meanwhile, were all too happy to sit back and contain, while milking every opportunity to run down the clock.
The visitors still maintained an occasional threat on the break through their star man Yevhen Konoplyanka and the man on the other flank Matheus. Dnipro will feel they should have gone into the half-time interval not only still up a goal in the tie but also up a man. Soldado deliberately aimed an elbow at Artem Fedetskiy that connected with the full-back’s face as the two contested the ball, but no punishment was forthcoming from the referee.
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Still, within two minutes of the second half the Ukrainian side were celebrating. From Ruslan Rotan’s fine free-kick, Zozulya may have been marginally offside, but that still didn’t excuse the way Tottenham’s defenders switched off to allow the Dnipro forward to head past Hugo Lloris form eight yards out.
Tottenham showed some life with Eriksen putting Soldado through and the Spaniard finishing crisply before seeing a much-needed goal ruled off for offside. Shortly after the hosts were level on the night. Eriksen’s curling free-kick from the left beat the dive of Denys Boyko to his near post, despite the Dnipro goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball.
Hearts were in mouth around White hart Lane when Konoplyanka soon struck the foot of the post with a wonderfully controlled strike from distance after a well-worked free-kick. Then came the moment that former Spurs manager Juande Ramos will doubtless reflect on as the turning point against his Dnipro side. With Vertonghen initially the instigator in the latest in a series of clashes with Zozulya as the two waited for a free-kick, the Dnipro man responded stupidly by putting his head toward the Spurs defender. Vertonghen went down as if he had been poleaxed and the referee responded with a red card. Zozulya’s fury was evident as he had to be restrained from getting to Vertonghen.
Within just seven minutes of that decision, Tottenham had got the two goals they needed. First Adebayor was played onside by Ivan Strinic and slid in to volley Eriksen’s in-swinging cross past Boyko from six-yards. His second goal was even more impressive. From a long, diagonal ball from Ezekiel Fryers, the rejuvenated Togolese powerhouse leaped above Evgen Cheberyachko just inside the box to chest the ball down at head height perfectly into his path to leave him with a simple finish.
It was always going to be incredibly difficult for Dnipro to recover from such a turnaround with just 10 men. The only moment of anxiety being when the again impressive Konoplyanka struck a free-kick that Lloris had to get down smartly to keep at bay.