Monday 22 January 2018

AVB dismisses concerns after Spurs throw away lead in Greece

Panathinaikos' Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (R) challenges Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker during their Europa League match. Photo: PA.
Panathinaikos' Lazaros Christodoulopoulos (R) challenges Tottenham Hotspur's Kyle Walker during their Europa League match. Photo: PA.

Paul Hirst

MANAGER Andre Villas-Boas remains confident Tottenham will qualify from their Europa League group despite watching his team throw away two points at Panathinaikos last night.

Spurs were in complete control of their Group J game against the Greek side and took the lead after 35 minutes when Michael Dawson glanced Tom Huddlestone's cross past Orestis Karnezis.

Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey and Huddlestone then all missed chances to put the game to bed, and Panathinaikos took full advantage through striker Toche, who left Dawson for dead and turned in a Giorgos Seitaridis pass 13 minutes from time.

The draw left Spurs third in the group, two points off leaders Lazio ahead of a double-header against Maribor, who hammered Pana in their opening fixture.

Villas-Boas' team will have to be more clinical against the Slovenians, but the Portuguese is confident his side will still progress.

"In the end it leaves us with two points. Maribor have three and Lazio have four so everything is open as we go into the double-headers," Villas-Boas said.

"It's only after the fourth game that you tend to know who will go through or whether there is any competition for that second place.

"In a group like this, normally 10 or 11 points to qualify."

Villas-Boas won the competition with Porto in 2011 and last night reiterated his desire to lift the trophy again with his new club.

"The ambition we set for this competition is to go to the final, to win the trophy," the 34-year-old said.

"It is a trophy this club have won in the past so we embrace this tradition. We will try to qualify from this group and then take it from there."

Dawson, making his second start of the season, did little to boost his chances of earning a permanent recall early in the first half when he was out-paced by Toche and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, while his distribution from the back was also poor throughout.

Panathinaikos have only won once this season and have been hit by off-field troubles.

They lacked any penetration until the latter stages of the match, but Villas-Boas denied his team took the Greeks too lightly.

"I don't think we were complacent," said Villas-Boas, whose team now face Aston Villa on Sunday.

"We have to give credit to Panathinaikos. They pressed much more and started to gain belief from that and that led to the goal.

"I think the whole team felt a bit disappointed because the first half was so positive and we were in control of the situation.

"We were a bit sloppy in the second half. I understand the disappointment at not putting the game to bed, but in the end we congratulated the players because if it had been other way round, the whole perspective would have been different.

"Panathinaikos came at us very strong in the second half. They made a change with Ibrahim Sissoko. He improved the quality of their game and we could not stay in control of the game so much in the second half."

Press Association

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