Stambouli fires Spurs to victory

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:22

Stambouli fires Spurs to victory

Play was halted 41 minutes into this Group C clash after individuals encroached onto the pitch on three separate occasions in what appeared to be an orchestrated PR stunt.
The incident led to a temporary suspension of play at White Hart Lane, where Mauricio Pochettino’s men would eventually triumph thanks to Benjamin Stambouli’s first goal for the club.
The win against already eliminated Partizan means Spurs progress to the round of 32 with a game to spare, although it is the unsavoury incidents which will be making the headlines – just like in the sides’ previous meeting.
September’s 0-0 draw in Belgrade was shrouded in controversy after home fans displayed an anti-Semitic banner inspired by the Only Fools and Horses logo.
It led to UEFA fining Partizan and handing down a partial stadium closure for their next home match, although this time it is Tottenham facing the wrath of European football’s governing body.
On three different occasions members of the public snuck onto the field, leading referee Yevhen Aranovskiy to temporarily suspend a match in which an Albanian flag was seen in the home end – an apparent bid to rile visiting fans after last month’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Serbia was abandoned.
With so much happening around the ground, it was easy at times to forget this was an important game for Tottenham – one which saw them qualify with a match to spare.
It was far from a straightforward win as Partizan produced a spirited performance, although Spurs eventually won through thanks to Stambouli’s strike shortly after half-time.
Emmanuel Adebayor, Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue were amongst eight first-team players unavailable for this match, restricting Pochettino somewhat in terms of the alterations.
Roberto Soldado retained his place as a result and struck wide early on, before Kyle Naughton flashed a strike over after a nice one-two with Aaron Lennon.
Spurs looked bright on the attack but, like so many times this season, shaky at the back, with Petar Grbic bursting free to send in a cross that just evaded Petar Skuletic.
The visitors appeared buoyed by that chance and enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy, with Danko Lazovic curling just wide having controlled impressively.
A deflected Paulinho effort was all Spurs could manage in that period, although they came close when Soldado just failed to latch onto a low Erik Lamela cross.
Soon after, though, play was brought to its first halt as a pitch invader led stewards a merry dance, managing to taking selfies with Naughton, Lamela and Jan Vertonghen.
It took more than a minute to shift him, with another member of the crowd slipping onto the pitch after Nikola Ninkovic had a low shot saved.
UEFA officials spoke to the fourth official after that incident, with Stambouli and Ninkovic having efforts before a third invader saw play suspended.
The players were led off the pitch by referee Aranovskiy and did not re-emerge until 10 minutes later, with Lamela driving wide before half-time was called.
Fortunately, football became the focus in the second half, with Tottenham taking the lead four minutes after the restart.
Soldado latched onto a Stambouli through-ball but his clipped shot came back off the post, and the French midfielder was there to strike home the rebound.
The relief inside White Hart Lane was clear, so too was their desire to extend their advantage as Soldado saw an effort saved before somehow failing to turn past Milan Lukac from six yards.
Paulinho forced a save from the Partizan goalkeeper soon after, but the visitors were having efforts themselves, even though Lazovic and Andrija Zivkovic failed to find the target.
Lamela wriggled free to hit a low strike just wide and then came close with a fine effort when off balance, while a Kane free-kick and deflected Nabil Bentaleb effort called Lukac into action.
Kane thought he had wrapped up the victory when slotting home with seven minutes remaining, although the offside flag denied the in-form striker.
It was a moment Spurs would have rued had it not been for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who produced an exquisite save to deny Vladimir Volkov powering home a late header.
Harry Winks was brought on for his debut in a frantic closing stages in which Stambouli led a counter-attack, only for Lamela to put across the face of goal.
Kane saw penalty appeals wrongly denied in stoppage time, before Lukac provided a fine save to thwart Lamela at the end of frantic evening.

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