Sevilla blunt Spurs attack despite early goal

Sevilla can continue to dream about becoming only the second team to retain the UEFA Cup despite a narrow 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the quarterfinal first leg in Seville on Thursday.

However, the Spaniards were dealt a very early blow when Robbie Keane got one of the quickest goals seen in European competition this season.

The Republic of Ireland international scored after just 65 seconds but Sevilla bounced back with goals later in the first half from Fredi Kanoute, the Spanish first division’s top scorer, and Alexandr Kerzhakov.

The result means the tie between arguably the two strongest teams remaining in this year’s competition remains in the balance ahead of the second leg at White Hart Lane next Thursday.

“We’ve got a goal advantage but against Spurs at home, with the crowd behind them, it’s going to be a very tough game. It’s a very slim advantage,” reflected Sevilla coach Juande Ramos.

Spurs failed to get the draw that their coach Martin Jol had set as a realistic target but still have a valuable away goal in their pocket.

The prize for the ultimate victors will almost certainly be a semifinal match-up against another Spanish side Osasuna, after the Pamplona-based side romped to a 3-0 away win at Bayer Leverkusen earlier on Thursday.

Keane shocked Sevilla when he evaded their offside trap and latched onto a chip forward by Dimitar Berbatov before seeing his first shot rebound off the ‘keeper and then knocking the ball in at the second attempt.

“It was obviously nice to score an early goal,” admitted Keane.

“We’ll take 2-1 and look forward to taking them back to White Hart Lane. We always score goals there and we are more of a match for them.”

Sevilla gradually recovered from the shock and got back into the game.

Kanoute got the Sevilla crowd, which was several thousand short of capacity because of the simultaneous Easter celebrations in the city, singing again, with a penalty against his old club after 19 minutes.

The Luxembourg referee Alain Hamer harshly judged that Spurs goalkeeper Paul Robinson had impeded Adriano, although the England international had clearly got his hands to the ball before the Brazilian tripped over his diving body.

Robinson was astonished by the decision.

“I got both my hands on the ball,” said the England goalkeeper.

“The referee said afterwards that ‘you got your hands on the ball and then took the man out’ but surely that is a fair challenge.”

Keane went even further.

“I thought the penalty was a disgrace,” said the Republic of Ireland captain.

“To get an early goal and then get a decision like that! It left the lads devastated.”

Even the normally diplomatic Spurs coach Martin Jol criticised Hamer’s decision.

“I’m disappointed.
I think everyone saw our goalkeeper get his hands to the ball first. It’s a judgement call but even sitting 90 to 100 yards away I would have made a different decision,” said Jol.

“That changed the game,” added the unhappy Dutchman.

Nevertheless Kanoute stepped up and picked his target before side-footing the ball home.

The goal seemed to swing the game in Sevilla’s favour.

A defensive mistake by Michael Dawson, who headed the ball straight to Julien Escude, who in turn nodded the ball forward for Alexsandr Kerzhakov to head home from the edge of the six-yard box put Sevilla ahead after 36 minutes.

In the second half, Kanoute continued to show few signs of his persistent groin strain and almost put Sevilla further ahead with a header 20 minutes from the end but that was the closest either side got to scoring again.

There was also the unpleasant sight of British fans clashing with Spanish police in this season’s UEFA Cup.

Last month the police baton charged Rangers supporters at Osasuna and after 32 minutes Spurs fans tried to get at taunting Sevilla supporters and ended up battling with the intervening police instead. - Sapa-AFP

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