On the banks of the Wisla river, which runs through the City of Krakow, is a statue of a dragon, which according to legend was captured and caged nearby. The dragon breathes fire at
random, and Spurs’ opposition in this vital UEFA Cup second leg also breathed fire at various stages. Having been wounded by a Glowacki own goal (under pressure from Fraizer Campbell),
the Wisla side attacked more and more, with some clever passing play. Despite top scorer Brozek’s goal in the 83rd minute, Spurs just held out and will be one of the top seeds in tomorrow’s draw for the Round Two league phase.
I heard comments after the game to the effect that it had been a poor game between two “shit” teams. I don’t agree. Played in glorious sunshine and warmth, the first half was fairly uneventful, but capped by two fine saves by Heurelho Gomes, who despite a near comedic error in the second half, must still he considered Spurs’ man of the match. Spurs had enjoyed a good degree of possession, but as they chased the game, the home side became more and more threatening managing to get balls in between Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate to allow several shots on goal.
Despite the presence of numerous riot police, and fears of trouble from the local fans, on the face of it, the match was played in a friendly atmosphere, with the home crowd holding up a “God Save the Queen” banner at kick-off. The support of the home stand was orchestrated either by a very powerful megaphone, or the PA system, but there were plenty of enthusiastic Spurs fans to counter them with less abusive chants than had been drawing so much media attention. Spurs played towards their own fans in the first half, and Gomes was left in the sun, subject to ritual loud whistles every time he took a goal kick.
Modric had made one or two forays down the left side, and Darren Bent got a header on target following a throw down that left side, where Bale had been supporting Modric well. It was Modric who had the next meaningful effort after 20 minutes, following Bale’s assists. The shot went outside the post.
The Wisla strike pair of Boguski and Pawel Brozek was a constant threat, being provided by the likes of Sobolewski and Jirsak. Diaz, who had been at left back in the first leg, played a more advanced role in this game. With Sobolewski involved fully in the move that led to the shot, Gomes made a good save from Brozek’s low shot. Jirsak took an early knock and had to be replaced by Lobodzinski. Woodgate got another booking for a late challenge on the goalkeeper as he tried to clear. This was the second consecutive game where Woodgate got such a needless card.
The Romanian referee missed a blatant tug on Chris Gunter, who was in the box to receive Bale’s cross, after Modric passed to the left. Gunter did then win a foul but outside the box. Spurs suffered some pressure at the end of the half, and Gomes could only half clear to the opposition, who ran back, with Sobolewski hitting a powerful shot, well saved by the Spurs keeper. Ledley King also made a poor defensive clearance, and the ball went to Diaz, who shot weakly.
There was a sweet move early in the second half involving Jenas, Modric, then Campbell, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Spurs’ early second half pressure was rewarded with what had looked like a Campbell goal, meeting Bale’s cross at the near post. It turned out that Glowacki had the last touch, but the goal was a welcome buffer for Spurs. The home side now required two goals to take the tie into extra time.
The referee started showing his yellow card freely to Spurs players, where he had been lenient against the home side in the first. Zokora created much excitement with a brilliant run from his own half moving on a right to left diagonal, before unleashing a shot that whipped just wide across the goal. Another day maybe Didier!
Bit by bit, Juande Ramos sought to re-inforce the defence to hold the lead. Firstly Jamie O’Hara replaced Fraizer Campbell, then Huddlestone took over from Modric (and offered very little to the midfield). Finally, Michael Dawson came on for Lennon, and the fear was that had Wisla forced extra time, Spurs would have been lacking the pace and legs to survive.
One of Spurs’ last chances was in the middle of the half, when Modric fed Bent on the right side of goal. His shot went wide. The Gomes comedy moment came when his attempted clearance rebounded off Boguski, but thankfully went wide. After 78 minutes, Brozek headed a corner towards the corner of goal, and between them Gomes (with a touch) and Bale with a desperate boot, managed to divert the ball onto the post and clear. The Wisla equaliser came after Jenas lost possession in the middle and the ball was chipped over the defence to Pawel Brozek, who brilliantly chipped the advancing Gomes for a deserved goal.
It was now backs to the wall stuff from Spurs, and sadly Ledley was often half a yard behind his opponent, which allowed a few chances thanks to clever balls between our centre backs. After a Wisla corner, Cleber was not closed down, and his shot was saved by Gomes. The rebound went to Brozek, whose header was saved by the keeper. Wisla substitute Guedes Filho had a late chance in front of goal, but fired over the bar.
In the end we were celebrating a survival, and looking forward to four more European ties. The players responded to the good support they had been given, and the Spurs fans laughed at the (Puff the magic) dragon mascot, but also generously applauded the Wisla team. Such good nature was not rewarded when the riot police decided to keep us on the premises for at least an hour and a quarter, before finally unlocking the gates and herding us into town.
Many of those Spurs fans also took the opportunity during their trip to pay homage to those who had been subjected to the horror of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, which were within reach of Krakow, and most worthy of a visit if you ever get a chance