Sat, Dec 17, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Spurs shine — but too little, too late

MISSED CHANCES:Tottenham Hotspur had to make up points in their last game to progress into the Europa League last 32, but their four goals were just not enough

Reuters, BERNE

Bjorn Vleminckx, left, of Bruges jumps for a header with Ewerton of Braga during their Europa League match at the Jan Breydel Stadium in Bruges, Belgium, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

Rubin Kazan, Udinese, Bruges and AZ Alkmaar qualified for the Europa League knockout stages on Thursday and went into the draw for the round-of-32, with big guns Manchester United and Manchester City after their Champions League elimination.

Rubin Kazan, down to 10 men after 13 minutes, held on for a 1-1 draw at PAOK Salonika to qualify, at the expense of last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists Tottenham Hotspur.

The under-strength English Premier League side, with only three outfield players on the bench, won 4-0 at Shamrock Rovers, but finished third in Group A — one point behind the Russians.

Udinese’s Antonio Di Natale volleyed an equalizer in first-half stoppage-time to give the Italians the point they needed at home to Celtic, who had taken the lead through Gary Hooper. The 1-1 draw left Udinese second in Group I, behind Atletico Madrid.

Bruges also went through with a 1-1 home draw against last year’s Europa League finalists Braga, who played most of the Group H match with 10 men, as did Dutch league leaders Alkmaar by the same scoreline against Metalist Kharkiv in Group G.

Bjorn Vleminckx opened the scoring for Bruges just after the break against a Braga side who had defender Elderson sent off in the 16th minute for a trip on Vadis Odjidja, but the Portuguese outfit equalized with a fine strike from Ewerton in the 65th minute.

English Championship (second division) side Birmingham City beat Maribor 1-0, but finished a point behind group winners Bruges and Braga, who had already qualified.

Alkmaar’s Adam Maher equalized seconds after Metalist went ahead late in the first half through Marko Devic. The point kept the Dutch side in second place just above Austria Vienna, who beat visitors Malmo 2-0, on goal-difference.

Tottenham needed a win combined with a defeat for Rubin and had to make up a difference of five goals to qualify and, although it looked impossible to start with, it was on the cards at the break in the respective games.

“At halftime we knew that the other team [Rubin] were losing and thought we had a real chance,” Spurs manager Harry Redknapp told ITV4. “We knew they had gone down to 10 men.”

Rubin fell behind to a Vierinha penalty in the 16th minute, after their goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov was sent off for scything down Giorgos Georgiadis, while a second-string Tottenham side had opened up a three-goal halftime lead at Shamrock.

However, Paraguay forward Nelson Haedo Valdez scored for Rubin three minutes after the break, volleying in from the penalty spot after Gokdeniz Karadeniz had cut the ball back.

South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar, with his first goal for Spurs, Andros Townsend and Jermain Defoe struck in a 16-minute spell before halftime to keep the Londoners in the hunt.

Substitute Harry Kane then added the fourth in stoppage-time for Tottenham, who have fielded under-strength teams in all their group games.

Shamrock’s defeat in coach Michael O’Neill’s last game in charge ended a 12-match European campaign that began in mid-July and included progress to the third qualifying round of the Champions League, where they lost to Copenhagen.

That sent them into the Europa League playoff round, where they surprisingly eliminated Partizan Belgrade, only to lose all six group games.

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