Spurs' Europa hopes "slim" now - Redknapp
Published 23:42 30/11/11 By MirrorFootball
Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp practically wrote off his side's chances of making the knockout stages of the Europa League after tonight's 2-1 defeat to 10-man PAOK Salonika at White Hart Lane.
Early goals from Dimitris Salpigidis and Stefanos Athanasiadis allowed PAOK to race in to a 2-0 lead before Luka Modric pulled one back for the favourites from the penalty spot after Konstantinos Stafylidis was dismissed for handball on the line.
After an encouraging start to their European campaign, Spurs' hopes of qualifying from Group A are now out of their hands.
The Londoners must overhaul the five-goal goal difference that separates them from Rubin Kazan in the final round of matches next month, with the Russians heading to Greece next month to play a PAOK team who have already qualified.
A draw in Greece will be enough to see second-place Rubin through, but even if the Russians lose, Tottenham will have to hammer Shamrock Rovers - a team against which they struggled to beat at home on matchday two.
That has left Redknapp with a very pessimistic outlook on how the remaining group matches will pan out.
"I am disappointed now because we are not going to be in the last 32," he said.
"It's very slim - it is very difficult now. I wanted to stay in the competition but it wasn't to be. Full credit to the opposition, they worked hard and looked dangerous."
Exiting the competition would remove one more obstacle to Tottenham's chances of keeping up their unlikely assault on the title, but Redknapp says he does not want to go out of Europe.
"I wouldn't want to say going out is a blessing. I wanted to win tonight. You want to win every game," Redknapp added.
Sloppy marking from captain Sebastien Bassong gifted the away side the lead. The Cameroon defender allowed Salpingidis to head home after six minutes before straying from Athanasiadis to gift the striker the chance to make it 2-0 seven minutes later.
Despite fielding the likes of Modric and Aaron Lennon, Redknapp admits making wholesale changes to his side proved costly tonight.
"We started sloppy and didn't defend well. It was a new back four and for the first 10 minutes we started like we did not know each other," Redknapp said.
"The kid handballed it on the line and we made it 2-1 and at that point I thought we would come back and win it, but they got bodies back and it was difficult."
Jermain Defoe thought he had equalised in the second half when he poked home from 12 yards.
Yago Falque's shot was cleared off the line by a diving tackle from Pablo Contreras and the midfielder sprung to his feet to stop a sliding Defoe from tapping in from two yards with a brave challenge which saw the England striker's studs sink in to the PAOK player's thigh.
Defoe fired in from inside the box while Contreras lay stricken on the floor clutching his leg, but the referee ruled it out for the foul on the Chilean.
Spurs' players were furious at the decision but, Redknapp agreed with the decision.
He said: "I did not think it was a goal. I thought Defoe fouled the boy and the referee gave the right decision."
PAOK manager Laszlo Boloni was delighted to see his side progress.
"I am really very proud today because nobody believed that PAOK could qualify from this group," he said.
"Before this game, we knew the power of Tottenham. We knew that even without a few important players, they had a strong squad."
With PAOK having already qualified for the last 32, Boloni could be forgiven for resting the players that brought him victory tonight in the club's last game against Rubin in two weeks' time, but the Romanian assured Redknapp that he will be doing everything he can to beat the Russians.
He said: "I promise to Tottenham, that I will not pick my second team. You know why? Because I don't have a second team!"