Europa League - Spurs slump to damaging defeat
Tottenham's Europa League fate is no longer in their own hands following a damaging 2-1 defeat to PAOK Salonika at White Hart Lane that featured two highly controversial incidents.
After conceding two sloppy goals inside 13 minutes when Dimitrios Salpigidis and Stefanos Athanasiadis exploited some poor defending, Tottenham were handed a route back into the Group A fixture when Konstantinos Stafylidis was shown a contentious red card when adjudged to have handled on the line.
Luka Modric converted the resulting penalty to pull a goal back and usher in a long period of largely unbroken Tottenham dominance, with PAOK forced deep into their own half as they came under a hail of shots from the home side.
Tottenham were celebrating an equaliser after 77 minutes when Jermain Defoe poked the ball home but referee Bas Nijhuis, after a lengthy wait and amid much confusion, rightly pulled play back for Defoe's nasty challenge on Pablo Contreras after the defender had cleared an initial effort from Aaron Lennon off the line.
The defeat means Tottenham must beat Shamrock Rovers on the final matchday and hope that PAOK, who have now qualified, beat Rubin Kazan at home if the North London side are to qualify on goal difference. They will also need a favourable swing of six goals in the final group games.
Tottenham approached the game in fine form - a defeat to Rubin Kazan in this competition their only loss in 11 outings - but were compromised by some terrible defending as they found themselves 2-0 down inside 13 minutes.
PAOK took the lead after only six, when Georgios Georgiadis was afforded too much time on the ball by Vedran Corluka on the left of the box, cut inside the Croatian and picked out Salpigidis, who was left criminally unmarked to steer a header past Heurelho Gomes.
One became two when Georgiadis again evaded the attentions of Corluka and this time whipped in a low cross that rolled across the box and was met by the sliding Athanasiadis at the far post. His frenzied celebrations demonstrated just what the two-goal cushion meant to the Greek side.
Athanasiadis threatened again from 25 yards but saw his effort blocked as PAOK continued to expose the failings in the home defence. However, the momentum of the tie swung firmly in Spurs' favour on 37 minutes.
Having already denied Harry Kane with one goal-line block, Stafylidis then prevented the ball from crossing the line again as the youngster had another go. Referee Nijhuis deemed he had done so with his arm but it replays suggested the ball struck the PAOK man on the edge of the torso.
Stafylidis was shown a harsh red card as a result and Modric, a surprise inclusion from the start for Spurs, stroked the penalty home from 12 yards to pull Tottenham back into the contest before half-time.
They had the ball in the net within 60 seconds or so of the restart but when William Gallas headed home Modric's free-kick, the PAOK defence had already raced out to spring the offside trap.
Tottenham enjoyed their numerical advantage and almost drew level on 51 minutes. Danny Rose pinged in a deep cross and Kane met the ball at the back post with Kostas Chalkias exposed. However, the young forward got under the ball and headed over the bar.
Spurs attacked incessantly, wave after wave, as Jake Livermore and then substitute Gareth Bale drove shots wide of the target. They finally enjoyed a second breakthrough on 77 minutes but saw the goal taken away from them by Nijhuis a full 15 or so seconds after Defoe had hit the net.
Eventually the correct decision was made following consultation with a match official behind the goal, as the sliding challenge from Defoe, which resulted in Contreras being substituted due to injury, could have merited a red card such was its recklessness.
Spurs continued to pressure the visitors from Greece as Bale and substitute Iago Falque enjoyed chances in the final minutes, while Kyle Walker indulged in some embarrassing play-acting at a free-kick as PAOK found themselves under fire.
But the visitors held firm, leaving Spurs needing results to go in their favour on the final matchday if they are to qualify from Group A.
Earlier, Nelson Haedo Valdez scored twice as Rubin Kazan took another step towards the Europa League knockout stages with a comfortable 4-1 win over Group A minnows Shamrock Rovers.
Valdez gave the Russian side an early lead and, though Ken Oman quickly equalised, Rubin restored their lead before half-time through Bebars Natcho.
Valdez and strike partner Obafemi Martins added further goals in the second half to seal an ultimately comfortable win, their side's third in the group to leave them on 10 points.