By Greg Stobart at White Hart Lane
From the roar around White Hart Lane as Emmanuel Adebayor poked home Tottenham’s winning goal, you would never have guessed that many of the club’s fans don’t even want to be in the Europa League next season.
Europe’s second tier competition may be a very poor relative to the Champions League, but for Spurs and their manager Tim Sherwood, as they prepare to face Benfica in the last 16, it offers a genuine chance of silverware this year.
|VIEW FROM WHITE HART LANE
|By Greg Stobart
Even if Tim Sherwood loses his job to Louis van Gaal in the summer, he will still have some special memories to remember from his time as Tottenham manager.
This will be one of them. Spurs now face Benfica in the last 16 of the Europa League - and now it no longer feels like a Mickey Mouse competition.
They were in big trouble when Roman Zozulya put Dnipro ahead on Juande Ramos’ return to White Hart Lane but the striker’s red card was undoubtedly the key moment of the game.
Jan Vertonghen made the most of the contact but it was a stupid act by the Ukrainian striker, with the score 1-1 at the time after Christian Eriksen’s superb free-kick.
The atmosphere at White Hart Lane was as loud as I’ve heard it this season during that 15-minute spell in the second half as Spurs turned the tie on its head, inspired by Eriksen and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Adebayor eventually made the difference with two expert finishes, and while Spurs top-four hopes are fading, they still have plenty to look forward to in the Europa League under Sherwood.
Even if Sherwood loses his job to Van Gaal in the summer, he will still be able to look back on some memorable moments. The victory over Manchester United on New Year’s Day will be one of them, this comeback victory against Dnipro another.
Both the quality and mentality of the Spurs squad has been questioned throughout the season as they have stumbled in their attempts to achieve a place in the top four. They have lacked leadership on the pitch, missed characters to drag them back from difficult situations.
But for just about the first time this season, they showed real character and spirit to come from 2-0 down on aggregate, with the tie slipping away from them. There appeared to be little method - or tactics - to the madness, but it was exhilarating to experience nonetheless.
“I was delighted with the character,” said Sherwood. “I questioned it previous to tonight. I asked for it to come out and they did that.
“Conceding so early in the second half was a blow but tonight was all based on character. This is Tottenham, it’s the way we do it.
“I was worried but I was convinced the only way we would win tonight would be to score three goals.
“It’s a big platform for us. You can only learn from experiences. Many probably thought we were dead and buried but we showed great belief.”
That character was matched by the fans, who are known as a demanding bunch but never turned their backs on the players, even after Roman Zozulya’s opener for Dnipro. White Hart Lane was rocking like the good old days.
The comeback owed much to Zozulya’s subsequent red card after a foolish butt towards Jan Vertonghen, who made the most of it to get the Dnipro striker sent off.
But of equal importance was the contribution of Emmanuel Adebayor.
Sherwood is coming to rely on Adebayor just as much as his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas needed Gareth Bale’s goals last term.
The Togolese forward has scored 11 goals in 15 matches since Sherwood took over from Villas-Boas in mid-December.
After Christian Eriksen equalised on the night with a superb free kick, Adebayor stepped into his role as Tottenham’s matchwinner with two fine finishes.
Sherwood has done a fine job of bringing out the best in Adebayor after he was outcast by Villas-Boas.
And the forward will again be the man Spurs look to when they face Benfica in the next round.
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