Friday 14 March 2014
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Tim Sherwood had no qualms with the dedication of his players after they suffered a home defeat at the hands of Benfica in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League last-16 tie.
"We showed good spirit, character and we were solid defensively but their first shot at goal ended up in our net and that was a body blow"
Spurs fell behind from the visitors' first attack of the contest when former Bolton Wanderers loanee Rodrigo raced clear to steer a curling shot past Hugo Lloris on the half-hour.
Benfica doubled their lead thanks to Luisao's towering header shortly after the interval and, although Christian Eriksen reduced the arrears with a free-kick, the visiting captain scored again late on to give the Lilywhites an arduous assignment in Lisbon next week.
"We were fine in the first half, it was exactly what I wanted," said Sherwood. "We showed good spirit, character and we were solid defensively but their first shot at goal ended up in our net and that was a body blow.
"To then concede two set-pieces in the second half was really disappointing. Christian showed good quality from the free-kick but we couldn't take on that momentum. We possibly lacked a bit of guile and invention around the penalty area.
"We'll go to Benfica and give it our all and we owe it to the fans to do that. We'll have a good following over there and we'll play with spirit, but obviously it's a tall order."
Before that tie Spurs must steel themselves for the north London derby with Arsenal visiting White Hart Lane at 4pm on Sunday. Michael Dawson, who missed out against Benfica with a hamstring injury, is set to sit out the encounter, although Younes Kaboul will be available after having the red card he received against Chelsea last Saturday rescinded. Midfielder Mousa Dembele and defender Danny Rose are in contention to start but Vlad Chiriches (back), Erik Lamela (back) and Etienne Capoue (ankle) remain sidelined.
Arsenal, meanwhile, will be without Mesut Ozil for between three and six weeks after the Germany midfielder suffered a hamstring injury against Bayern Munich on Wednesday. The Gunners, who are also deprived of the services of forward Theo Walcott as well as midfielders Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, have full-back Nacho Monreal fit again, while Kieran Gibbs faces a late fitness test. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger may also give January loan signing Kim Kallstrom his first taste of Barclays Premier League action against Spurs as he has recovered from his back injury.
Thursday 13 March
Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen) 1-3 Benfica
Sunday 16 March
4pm Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal | #TOTARS | Follow on the Live Match Centre >>