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From Russia with glove

The team fell to a first Europa League defeat by a single goal to Rubin Kazan on Thursday evening, with the home side denied a greater margin of victory by a series of saves by Carlo Cudicini.

The team fell to a first Europa League defeat by a single goal to Rubin Kazan on Thursday evening, with the home side denied a greater margin of victory by a series of saves by Carlo Cudicini.

The goalkeeper was forced into regular action as Rubin seized control of the fixture against a young side who, on this occasion, did not muster a huge attacking threat or supply line to Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko.

In the end, it took a fine, floated free-kick from Bebras Natcho to beat Cudicini and separate the teams 10 minutes into the second half.

Positive news saw William Gallas and Steven Pienaar return for their first starts of the season at Rubin's Central Stadium and they made it through 72 and 90 minutes respectively.

Jake Livermore's first meaningful interception was to stop a pitch invader in his tracks in the first few minutes, but there was little in the opening 15 minutes to draw the crowd closer to the edge of their seats.

Gallas was slotting comfortably back in alongside Sebastien Bassong, with youthful pace on either side of them in the shape of Ryan Fredericks and Andros Townsend. This back line came close to being tested when a clever combination resulted in Alan Kaasaev bursting into the area before being unable to control his shot and Cudicini remained untroubled.

Vitali Kaleshin then had Cudicini a little more troubled by shooting narrowly over, moments before Christian Noboa had the ball in the net but referee Mr Meyer had long since stopped play.

Bebras Natcho let fly on 28 minutes with Cudicini doing brilliantly to tip over. Pavlyuchenko weaved a route through the other end before being blatantly checked without gaining a free-kick, but it was Cudicini quickly back in action, foiling an angled drive from Alexsandr Ryazantsev.

Rubin were the team with the momentum and threat as the first third of the game elapsed, coming close to taking the lead again when a Kaasaev deep ball just skimmed the head of Obafemi Martins and skidded wide.

On 39 minutes there was almost a goal against the run of play when Defoe drilled across the face of goal, but the toe of Pavlyuchenko could not quite reach out far enough to prod home.

Rubin began the second half in much the same fashion as they played most of the first. On the offensive and pressing to break the deadlock.

They did just that on 54 minutes after Bassong conceded a free-kick on the edge of the area. Natcho struck a precise set piece over the wall and into the net, giving the excellent Cudicini no chance at all.

He was more than up to the task five minutes later when Ryazantsev burst through and shot on the run, with the goalkeeper diverting his effort wide. At the other end, Fredericks could not prevent the ball running just out of play before cutting back for Defoe, who planted into the net anyway.

The first change was made on 72 minutes when Gallas made way for Dean Parrett, with Parrett slotting into midfield and Livermore dropping back alongside Bassong. Pavlyuchenko was then replaced by Harry Kane.

Cudicini produced another fine save to foil a Gokdeniz Karadeniz header 11 minutes from time, then another to deny Nelson Valdez.

It was not to be on the night, but further valuable experience will have been gained by the young players with the regulars fresh and ready for the challenge of Fulham back in the Premier League on Sunday.

Rubin Kazan (4-2-3-1): Ryzhikov; Kaleshin, Navas, Sharonov, Bocchetti; Natcho, Noboa; Kasaev (Ansaldi, 84), Ryazantsev (Eremenko, 90), Karadeniz; Martins (Valdez, 65). Unused subs: Arlauskis, Kuzmin, Kverkvelia, Orazsakhedov.

Spurs (4-4-2): Cudicini; Fredericks, Bassong, Gallas (Parrett, 72), Townsend; Falque, Carroll, Livermore, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko (Kane, 75). Unused subs: Gomes, Stewart, Nicholson, Pritchard, Lancaster.

Goals: Rubin Kazan - Natcho (55).

Attendance: TBC.

Referee: Mr F Meyer (Germany).