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Tottenham Hotspur 3 Shamrock Rovers 1: match report

Read a full match report of the Europa League game between Tottenham Hotspur and Shamrock Rovers at White Hart Lane on Thursday Sep 29 2011.

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So much for romance. For about 10 minutes after taking a shock lead Shamrock Rovers dared to dream on the biggest night of their recent history, but a three-goal burst in five minutes by Tottenham put paid to those notions.

The individual class of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Jermain Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos was enough to save Harry Redknapp’s blushes against a visiting side who still number some part-time players in their squad.

The same description could be given to many of those among the mixture of youth and experience on the field for Spurs. But an understrength Spurs team is more competitive in the Europa League than the Carling Cup, judging by their exit earlier this month from another competition which the club clearly regard as a distraction from chasing a top-four finish.

Redknapp was true to his word and saved most of his big guns for North London derby against Arsenal. But although the starting line-up he named showed 10 changes from the league win at Wigan, with only Kyle Walker retained, the six full internationals he did pick underlined the gulf in resources between the two teams.

One of the cosmopolitan second string, Giovani Dos Santos, remains one of football’s enigmas, a talented but frustrating player whose number of caps for Mexico – 52 – is more than double his total appearances for Spurs since his arrival from Barcelona in 2008.

At 22, he still has time on his side and started well against Shamrock, having two shots from distance before teeing up Jermain Defoe for an effort which visiting goalkeeper Richard Brush deflected on to the crossbar.

Brush knew more about his next stop, from Roman Pavlyuchenko, and was then helpless as Danny Rose, making his first appearance of the season, curled a shot against the bar.

Brush, only in the team because Rovers number one Ryan Thompson had been injured by his team-mates during celebrations of a penalty save against Rubin Kazan, was having a busy evening, relying on Stephen O’Donnell to clear Pavlyuchenko’s header off the line and then glad to see the same player shoot wide.

By contrast, Tottenham keeper Carlo Cudicini had so little to do he might as well have been in his usual position on the bench.

The contest in the stands was just as one-sided, but this time in favour of the visitors. The 3,000 or so travelling fans were determined to enjoy their evening and took great delight in the apparent apathy of their hosts.

Not even taunts of “Champions League, you’re having a laugh” and “You’re just a small team in London” could rouse the White Hart Lane crowd, who seemed to be following Redknapp’s lead in keeping their powder dry for Sunday.

The chances of Lennon being ready to take on Arsenal, however, appeared to diminish when the England winger was replaced at half-time despite no sign of him feeling the groin problem which had kept him out for a month.

The visitors made two interval changes of their own and they had an almost immediate impact.

From almost their first spell of decent possession in the match, Gary McCabe won and took a free kick that Cudicini could only parry.

Patrick Sullivan struck his follow up hard and low and Rice helped the ball into the net to the delight of the Shamrock bench and the hooped hordes behind the goal.

Their joy was not to last long. On the hour, Pavlyuchenko headed home Giovani’s fine delivery from the left flank and less than two minutes later Defoe repeated the trick from a similarly tempting by substitute Andros Townsend. The England man then turned provider, running 70 yards after making a tackle deep in his own half before laying the ball into the path of Dos Santos, who finished with aplomb.

There was still room for a little sentiment, when former Spurs (and Arsenal) man Rohan Ricketts was given a run-out. For him it will have been a poignant moment; for Tottenham and their fans it was merely a minor distraction from the real business of the Premier League.

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