There was a ten minute spell after the Greeks had equalised when it looked as though things might not go well but thanks mostly to some exemplary finishing and an unflustered under pressure performance from the back four we got through.
We had slightly the better of an almost incident free first half and went in to the break in the lead, Adebayor having neatly taken the clearest chance that came our way after Dempsey had put him in. It was tight though. In need of the win, Panathinaikos pressed and pushed on after half time but if Defoe’s shot, again Dempsey supplied the pass, had gone in instead of hitting the post that would’ve been it. Instead though Zeca steered a header past Friedel and we were all square. We struggled for any meaningful possession and the composure of the back four was put to the test as the Greek front line, led by the strong running Sissoko put them under pressure. With the midfield and forwards unable to find space to provide outlets and shift the balance of play back in our favour a touch of anxiety set in.
Sandro decided to take things into his own hands with a surge down the right and was brought to the floor. This wasn’t the first or last cynical foul of the evening from the away side whose play acting also tested everyone’s patience. Walker’s whipped in free kick found Dempsey who headed in off the bar and the keeper. A few minutes later Lennon’s superb driving run was matched by a clever angled pass to Defoe who lifted the ball over the keeper for number three. Game over.
We were set up with Dempsey mostly on the left but also roving around behind Defoe and Adebayor, almost in a Bale under Redknapp type role. He was our principle creative source and I thought he did ok, I’m not sure that everyone around me agreed however. Carroll foraged and tippy tapped alongside Sandro whilst Lennon did his best to find space on the right. Our quality of crossing was poor all evening.
Walker had a good match, suggesting that he has got over his early season wobbles. Vertonghen and Caulker did ok too though it’s only a matter of time before the latter gets caught out on one of these crazy little runs out of defence he does. What he’d do if anyone ever did successfully ping the return ball of a one-two back to him I don’t know but he’d certainly have the element of surprise in his favour. Naughton struggled on the left, the sooner we get Benny back the better.
The Park Lane mostly matched the noisy away support who were loudest in that spell after the equaliser but had been silenced previous to that and were again after Dempsey and Defoe’s goals. The next round games are on February 14 & 21, the draw is on December 20.
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