Spurs score three in five minutes to break Shamrock hearts
Europa League: Tottenham 3 Shamrock Rovers 1
Three goals in a devastating five-minute spell spared Tottenham’s blushes at White Hart Lane as they were forced to come from behind to overcome Irish minnows Shamrock Rovers.
Having been frustrated by a combination of visiting goalkeeper Richard Brush and the woodwork in the first half, Spurs found themselves behind five minutes after the interval as Stephen Rice gave the away side a shock lead in north London.
However, Tottenham’s response was swift and emphatic, as Roman Pavlyuchenko headed in the equaliser 10 minutes later, before Jermain Defoe and Giovani Dos Santos wrapped up the victory with two more goals in rapid succession.
The Lilywhites’ anticipated home win takes them second in Group A with four points from their opening two games, behind Rubin Kazan on goal difference.
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Harry Redknapp’s intent was clear from his line-up, with Defoe and the fit-again Aaron Lennon coming in to supplement Spurs’ second team, while Gareth Bale and Luka Modric were both named among the substitutes.
Danny Rose also made his return from injury, making his first appearance of the season at left-back, joining Carlo Cudicini, Vedran Corluka, Sebastien Bassong and Kyle Walker in the rearguard.
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There was a youthful core to the Tottenham side, as Jake Livermore and Tom Carroll took their places in the centre of midfield, while Giovani Dos Santos lined up on the left flank opposite Lennon, with Defoe and Pavlyuchenko up front.
It was Defoe who had the first sight of goal, testing Brush with a low 20-yard effort early on - and the England striker went even closer after 16 minutes, latching onto Giovani’s pass and seeing his low shot hit the keeper’s legs and cannon up onto the crossbar.
Brush was called into action again moments later as Lennon fed the ball into Pavlyuchenko, who seemed certain after creating room for himself eight yards out, but was brilliantly denied by the onrushing, sprawling keeper.
It was a fine stop from the 26-year-old, who was only playing because of an injury to Shamrock’s No1, Jamaica international Ryan Thompson, who was hurt by his own over-zealous team-mates’ celebrations after saving a penalty in a 3-0 defeat against Rubin Kazan two weeks ago.
Brush was fortunate to remain unbeaten in the 33rd minute, though, as Rose’s 20-yard effort curled over him but came back off the bar, while Bassong’s volley from the rebound struck Rovers skipper Daniel Murray in the face.
As half-time approached, Pavlyuchenko suddenly came to life, having a header from a corner chested off the line by Stephen O’Donnell, firing a low, skidding effort wide of the right post and then seeing a powerful 25-yard strike blocked by Craig Sives.
Tottenham endured further frustration as Lennon failed to anticipate Giovani’s tantalising low ball across the goalmouth – and the referee blew the half-time whistle three minutes later.
Redknapp made one change at the interval, replacing the unimpressive Lennon with Andros Townsend – but White Hart Lane was rocked five minutes after the restart as Shamrock took the lead.
Carlo Cudicini parried Gary McCabe’s initial free kick away but, when Patrick Sullivan drove the ball back at goal, Rice was on hand to divert it into the net.
There was ecstasy on the Rovers bench and in the away end, and suddenly Spurs were contemplating a hugely embarrassing home defeat.
However, the nerves proved to be short-lived, and 15 minutes later Tottenham were 3-1 up, having turned the match on its head with three goals in five minutes.
On the hour-mark, Giovani crossed from the left for Pavlyuchenko to head home, and two minutes later Rovers were undone by the same move as Townsend skipped down the left and centred for Defoe, who nodded in his fourth goal in seven games.
The Lilywhites striker was also instrumental in the third goal which rapidly followed, winning the ball with a sliding tackle well inside his own half before running 70 yards to the edge of the Shamrock box and teeing up Giovani, who fired home.
With the game won, Redknapp took the opportunity to make his final two changes, withdrawing Defoe and Rose and introducing 21-year-old midfielder Yago Falque and 18-year-old striker Harry Kane.
Spurs’ attentions now turn swiftly to Sunday’s derby showdown with Arsenal at the Lane.
Tottenham: Cudicini; Walker, Corluka, Bassong, Rose (Kane 80); Lennon (Townsend 45), Carroll, Livermore, Giovani; Pavlyuchenko, Defoe (Falque 73).