No get well present for Harry Redknapp as the Russian side take a deserved win with only the performance of Carlo Cudicini keeping the visitors in the game until the final whistle
Tottenham Hotspur fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat in Russia at the hands of Rubin Kazan thanks to Bibras Natcho’s second half free-kick.
Rubin was deserved winners and could have had more if not for the sterling work of goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, with his counterpart Sergei Ryzhikov in the Rubin goal completely untested.
The result sees PAOK, who beat Shamrock Rovers in Group A’s other fixture, climb to top spot while Spurs drop from the group summit to third place, as Rubin moves into second on goal difference.
With Harry Redknapp still in hospital recovering from heart surgery, Kevin Bond took charge of a Spurs side that retained just one player from its weekend victory over Queens Park Rangers. Sebastien Bassong kept his place at center-back and was joined by William Gallas, who made his first start after returning from injury.
Rubin had the better of the first half, regularly working Cudicini despite starting the game slowly. It will claim with some justification, however, that it could have had a penalty during that otherwise uneventful spell when Gallas blocked a cross with his arm.
Cudicini was called into action three times in quick succession later in the first, with Christian Noboa the first man denied when his powerful effort was palmed wide of the post. Salvatore Bocchetti could not quite force home the resulting corner after the ball was allowed to drop around the six-yard box before Cudicini proved himself equal to Natkho’s superb curling effort from 25 yards.
Aleksandr Ryazantsev forced another good stop from Cudicini, although he might have been better served by picking out Martins across goal, as Rubin continued to press. The excellent Kasaev created the best chance of the half when his inch-perfect cross evaded Gallas only for Martins to fail to make good contact with his header.
Ten minutes after the break and Rubin had deservedly broken the deadlock. Bassong’s error and foul on the edge of the box was severely punished as Natcho, Rubin’s top scorer this season despite his deep midfield position, clipped a perfectly placed free kick over the wall and beyond a stranded Cudicini.
Natkho almost turned provider after that, slipping a through ball into Ryazantsev with a static Spurs defense left appealing for offside as the Russia international broke through, but Cudicini parried the shot away.
With Rubin leading, the responsibility to press and dictate the flow of the game fell to Spurs but the inexperience of their midfield started to tell, with a presence like that of Rubin’s Natkho missing. Defoe and Pavlyuchenko showed glimpses of combination play but lacked support.
Rubin's lead remained slim until the final whistle but Spurs could not find a way through the Russians' mean defense, and will now find themselves in a tricky battle with their opponents, as well as PAOK, for a place in the next stage of the competition.
How do you stay up to date with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com – your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.