Spurs leave it late to ease the tension

Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 00:00

Tottenham 3 Panathinaikos 1:Two late goals eased a tense atmosphere at White Hart Lane as Tottenham survived a second-half fightback to beat Panathinaikos and progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League.

Needing just a draw to progress, Spurs had an air of complacency about them in the opening period, which Panathinaikos controlled for large parts.

They were struggling to get into the game and were missing the influence of Gareth Bale, who was absent due to a hamstring injury.

Emmanuel Adebayor put Tottenham ahead just before the half hour, but the Greeks, who have never won in Britain, played the better football and deservedly equalised through Zeca just after the re-start.

Panathinaikos, knowing victory was their only means of qualifying for the knockout stages, threw everything at Tottenham and looked the more likely to score before Clint Dempsey – whose header went in after hitting both the bar and keeper Orestis Karnezis – and Jermain Defoe settled the game late on.

First Dempsey headed home Kyle Walker’s cross – with the assistance of keeper Karnezis – to make it 2-1 and Defoe killed the game off with his 13th goal of the season with seven minutes left.

It was hardly Tottenham’s most vintage performance of the season – and the game itself was largely poor in quality – but Andre Villas-Boas will sleep easier knowing his team are one step closer to lifting the cup that he won with Porto in 2010.

Lazio’s drubbing of Maribor means Villas-Boas’ men qualify second from Group J, with a potential Champions League drop-out awaiting them in the second round. Panathinaikos had only beaten an English team once in their history, and will travel home with regrets.

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