Dimitar Berbatov was the star turn as progress to the last eight of the UEFA Cup was secured at the expence of Braga at the Lane.
Dimitar Berbatov was the star turn as progress to the last eight of the UEFA Cup was secured at the expence of Braga at the Lane.It was a repeat of the scoreline in the first leg and it made for an entertaining night's football once again as the team responded in fine style to falling a goal behind in the first half. Two superb interventions from Berbatov saw us leading at the break before Braga restored parity and Steed Malbranque made it a winning evening 15 minutes from time.
The team, which contained four changes, were sharp and incisive down the flanks early on, with Malbranque and Aaron Lennon giving a taster of the torment they are capable of giving full-backs. From one Lennon sortie, a Robbie Keane shuffle caused momentary panic among the Braga backline, while Malbranque narrowly failed to centre after being located on the run by the authorative looking Tom Huddlestone - making his first start since February 4.
Keane spun Andres Madrid after 13 minutes before firing a shot which cannoned into the arms of Paulo Jorge in an incident that the striker more than suspected was a strong penalty shout, but French referee Mr Duhamel did not have the best of views and waved the appeals away.
The night went off-script in the 25th minute when Luis Filipe's free-kick from the left clipped the head of Huddlestone and sneaked into the far corner. It levelled the aggregate score, but not for long.
Three minutes later Keane slipped the ball through to cool customer Berbatov inside the area to the left and he simply prodded past Paulo Santos and into the net for his sixth UEFA Cup goal of the season. He had the chance to increase his tally not long after the half hour mark, while Malbranque attempted a back-heel in front of goal after Lennon and Keane combination provided a low cross.
There followed a moment of absolute sublime brilliance on 41 minutes and you wouldn't need too many guesses to work out who was the central character. It stemmed from a Huddlestone free-kick from roughly 45 yards out that was pretty much zipped forward in the direction of Berbatov.
The striker took the ball on his chest, spun and volleyed right footed with such power tha Santos could hardly have seen it as it flew past him and into the net. The execution was breathtaking.
The second half continued in much the same manner as the first finished, with a pretty much relentless push forward in search of further goals. One nearly came when a Huddlestone free-kick picked out the head of Pascal Chimbonda, who steered his effort just wide of the right hand upright.
Matters became a little disjointed just before the hour mark and, on the hour following a Lennon foul, Andrade smashed home a free-kick to level the score on the night.
A tie that looked seemingly over was suddenly back in the melting pot again.
Keane was replaced by Jermain Defoe on 65 minutes with the skipper for the night having done so well to miss just one game with the twisted ankle he suffered in the first leg.
There was a blatant penalty not given when Santos failed to field a Huddlestone corner and Berbatov was charged with the relatively routine tast of slotting in, but he was bundled down by Frechaut and was understandably bemused to look up and see the referee not pointing to the spot.
Berbatov turned provider on 75 minutes with a sumptuous throughball. Lee Young-Pyo dashed down the left and passed in-field to Malbranque, who in turn picked out the Bulgarian and the ball was returned with interest into the area and the Frenchman advanced to dink past Santos for his second goal of the tie.
Huddlestone then had a thumping drive that crashed into the net ruled out for handball while in the process of controlling. Malbranque was booked late on for supposed diving in the area when it was clearly a nailed on penalty when he was chopped down by Filipe.
Team: Cerny, Stalteri, Lee, Dawson, Chimbonda, Zokora, Huddlestone, Malbranque, Lennon (Ghaly 81), Berbatov, Keane (Defoe 65). Subs not used: Alnwick, Tainio, Mido, Taarabt, Lee.
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