Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood slams Dnipro pitch after 1-0 Europa League defeat
'The worst I've experienced for a long, long time,' says coach as he blames surface for Roberto Soldado's glaring miss
Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood criticised the state of the pitch after his side were beaten 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last 32 tie at Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine on Thursday.
The match was played despite the political unrest in the country’s capital Kiev, which lies some 220 miles (354 km) from the Dnipro Arena in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk.
A minute’s silence was organised before kick-off with both teams wearing black armbands as a mark of respect for the more than 70 people who have died in protests in Kiev since Tuesday.
However, the Dnipro supporters instead sang the national anthem in a half-empty stadium on a national day of mourning which saw many fans stay away from the match.
Dnipro’s Spanish coach Juande Ramos enjoyed victory over his former club when Yevhen Konoplyanka, courted by Liverpool and linked with Spurs in the January transfer window, converted an 81st-minute penalty after a foul by Jan Vertonghen on Matheus.
However, Tottenham should have taken the lead 11 minutes into the second half when their Spanish striker Roberto Soldado somehow put the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
After the match Sherwood, who has lost all three of the cup ties he has presided over with Spurs, criticised the pitch but said it was no excuse for his side, losing their first Europa League game in their nine ties in the competition this season.
“I think the pitch is a disgrace, it’s no excuse because both teams have to play on it, but it’s possibly the worst pitch I’ve ever experienced for a long, long time,” Sherwood, who became Tottenham head coach in December, told a news conference.
Asked if the playing surface was responsible for their misfiring striker Soldado’s glaring miss, he added: “I’m sure that must have played some part in Robbie missing that one.”
His counterpart Ramos was in charge of Spurs when they won the League Cup in 2008, the last time they lifted a trophy, and knows his side still face a tough job in next Thursday’s return.
“Both teams did their best in order to win the game and luckily we were able to score the goal which gives some priority [in the tie],” he told a news conference.
“We are aware that in London, 90 difficult minutes await us and we will try to do our best.”
Tottenham’s impressive keeper Brad Friedel was fortunate not to concede a second goal when Konoplyanka’s fellow Ukraine forward Roman Zozulya hit the post with a header late on.
“You have to give Dnipro credit, they played well. We knew they were a good side with full internationals. We had to show them respect and we did that,” Sherwood added.
“I thought we could have played better, Brad made too many saves for my liking and that’s what I told the lads. They know they can do better.
“I didn’t think we were very poor. I thought the disappointment was that we didn’t score and we had some good opportunities to do that.
“It was a shame we couldn’t come away with a goal. They have threats and will have threats at White Hart Lane. We will score at the Lane, but it depends on how many we have to score.”