Tottenham Hotspur have work to do in their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie after losing 1-0 at Ukrainian side Dnipro on Thursday night at Dnipro Arena in Dnipropetrovsk.
Yevhen Konoplyanka—who was a transfer target for Liverpool in January—scored the game's only goal, converting a second-half penalty. Roberto Soldado missed a clear chance for Tottenham in the second half, shooting over an open goal from close range.
Both goalkeepers starred, making a series of saves to keep the score level until the final minutes.
The same two teams will play again next week in London, with the winner over two legs advancing to the round of 16.
The match went ahead despite the political unrest in Ukraine. Per BBC Sport, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych declared Thursday a "day of national mourning" following at least 26 deaths resulting from violent protests in Kiev. Dnipro Arena is located 220 miles south-east of Kiev, per The Independent's Simon Rice.
Against such a backdrop, Spurs manager Tim Sherwood hinted ahead of the match that his team would take a professional approach.
"We are just concentrating on playing football and getting the game out of the way," Sherwood said, per BBC Sport. "It is never great to see scenes of violence in any country at any time. It is not something we concentrate on."
Currently in fifth place, three points behind fourth-placed Liverpool, Tottenham will be hoping to take the full three points when they play at Norwich City on Sunday. Then, after the return leg against Dnipro next Thursday, Sherwood's team host Cardiff City on March 2.
Perhaps with an eye on the league, Sherwood left a number of first-team regulars in London, including in-form striker Emmanuel Adebayor, full-back Kyle Walker and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. Brad Friedel took over in goal, while Soldado started in the middle of Spurs' forward line.
Dnipro created a good chance in the ninth minute with a quick counter led by Konoplyanka. Dribbling down the left side, Konoplyanka crossed to the near post for Matheus, whose attempted redirection went wide.
Etienne Capoue shot well off target for Spurs in the 11th minute, and Soldado forced a save two minutes later with a flicked header from Nacer Chadli's cross.
Matheus had the best chance yet in the 24th minute, springing Tottenham's offside trap with a well-timed run behind the defence. But Friedel came off his line quickly, cut down the angle and saved Matheus' weak shot.
Friedel saved again from Matheus two minutes later, following a series of defensive miscues in Spurs' half. He then scooped the rebound with Roman Zozulya lurking.
Dnipro had a penalty appeal when Matheus tumbled dramatically in the box in the 30th minute, but the referee waved play on. Spurs then appealed for a penalty in the 35th minute when Ivan Strinic fouled Paulinho on the edge of Dnipro's box. This time the referee awarded a free-kick, from which Andros Townsend shot narrowly off target.
Dnipro had an anxious moment in the 41st minute after Denys Boyko lost possession to Soldado in the box. But with the ball rolling free, Boyko scrambled back quickly to regain possession and avert danger.
After the break, it was Tottenham's turn to endure a nervous moment. Following a scramble in Spurs' box in the 55th minute, Zozulya went to ground under Friedel's challenge. The referee blew his whistle, but instead of awarding a penalty, he booked Zozulya for simulation.
Spurs should have gone ahead one minute later when Paulinho set up Soldado with a fine cross from the right. But Soldado shot over from close range with the goal gaping.
Christian Eriksen entered the match as a substitute for Tottenham in the 64th minute, and within moments he put the ball in the net from Danny Rose's through ball. But the goal was ruled out for offside in a tight decision.
The match then became stretched, with chances coming quickly at both ends. Friedel saved Matheus' fierce drive in the 67th minute. Two minutes later, Soldado's volley was deflected wide following Eriksen's fine cross from the right.
In the 70th minute, Dnipro's Giuliano weaved through Spurs defence before forcing a one-on-one save from Friedel. Four minutes later, Dnipro defender Ondrej Mazuch flicked a header over the bar.
Dnipro won the decisive penalty in the 79th minute. Jan Vertonghen fouled Matheus, and Konoplyanka converted the spot-kick, banging his shot in off the post for a 1-0 Dnipro lead in the 81st minute.
The match was far from finished, though, and both teams had chances to score in the final moments.
Paulinho hit the outside of the post, and substitute Harry Kane volleyed wide from a corner. At the other end, Zozulya hit the post with a header from a corner in stoppage time.
In the end, Dnipro's second-half goal was the game's only tally, and both teams had to content themselves with the tight result heading into the second leg.
|Tottenham Hotspur Player Ratings vs. Dnipro|
Tottenham play at Norwich City in the Premier League on Sunday.
Dnipro's next Ukrainian Premier League match, at home to Volyn, is set for March 2.
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