Dnipro’s Yevhen Konoplyanka shows his worth against Spurs

Timm Sherwood bemoands poor pitch after Roberto Soldado missed from close range

 Yevhen Konoplyanka scored the winner for Dnipro against Spurs. Photograph:  Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Yevhen Konoplyanka scored the winner for Dnipro against Spurs. Photograph: Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

 

Dnipro 1 Tottenham 0

Tottenham’s reported January target Yevhen Konoplyanka scored a decisive penalty against them as Dnipro won 1-0 in their Europa League first leg in Ukraine.

The 24-year-old saw a deadline-day move to Liverpool collapse with Spurs also linked along the way, though coach Tim Sherwood has always distanced the club from a deal.

Konoplyanka himself said he does not see the round-of-32 tie as an audition for a summer transfer but he was lively throughout and gave full-back Kyle Naughton an uneasy evening.

The penalty was awarded with just 10 minutes remaining after referee Antonio Miguel Lahoz had turned down several claims from both sides earlier in the game.

Konoplyanka stepped up and scored with the air of a player with the confidence to move on to bigger and better things, but for now he has given Dnipro and former Spurs boss Juande Ramos a lead to defend at White Hart Lane next week.

It could have been a different story had Roberto Soldado not missed in spectacular style earlier in the second half.

The Spain striker turned a glorious 55th-minute chance over the bar from close range with Spurs in the ascendancy.

Spurs boasted a 100 per cent record in getting out of their group under previous head coach Andre Villas-Boas but, with Sherwood taking charge of his first European game, it was a second-half sitter turned over the crossbar by summer signing Soldado which he will be left pondering.

Sherwood, whose side were blocked by Uefa from training on the pitch on Wednesday, questioned the state of the surface after tasting defeat in his first European outing as a manager.

“He would expect to score,” Sherwood said of Soldado’s chance. “I haven’t seen it again but I’m not sure he will be too complimentary about the pitch.

“I am not using it as an excuse, not for the chance, as both teams played on it but I am sure that it must have played some part in Robbie missing that one.

“The pitch was a disgrace, it is no excuse as both teams had to play on it but it is possibly the worst pitch I have experienced in a long time.”

However, Ramos’s evening could have been even better had Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel not made a number of good saves, including keeping out a deflected Konoplyanka free-kick late on.

“Our target was to score as much as possible, a draw was not for us,” said Ramos. “Luckily we were just able to score the goal which gives us some advantage but we are pretty aware of the fact that London we will have 90 difficult and serious minutes. We will do our best and try to win in London.”

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