A goal from Dimitar Berbatov and two from Jermain Defoe secured a fine 3-1 UEFA Cup win over Dinamo Bucharest on Thursday evening.
A goal from Dimitar Berbatov and two from Jermain Defoe secured a fine 3-1 UEFA Cup win over Dinamo Bucharest on Thursday evening.The hugely impressive display confirmed top spot in Group B and we now await the draw for the Round of 32 knowing we will come up against a team that finished third in the UEFA Cup standings.
The balance of the contest was barely in doubt from the off and when Berbatov scored his 10th goal of the season and his fifth in four European starts, the team clicked through the gears and Defoe stole the goalscoring show.
There was nearly an opening before a minute had registered on the clock when Defoe and Hossam Ghaly combined to present an opening for Berbatov. Against current trends, the striker completely missed the ball. Tom Huddlestone, to cries of shooooot, moments later unleashed a piledriver that was not too wide of the mark.
In what was a lively beginning, Defoe then tested the reflexes of Uladzimir Hayeu, shortly after Dinamo served notice that they were going to be robust customers on the night - indicated by a hefty lunge on the restored Ghaly by Adrian Ropotan.
Hayeu will not want to dwell on his actions in the 15th minute. Having fielded a shot from Berbatov with relative comfort he proceeded to throw the ball out in the general direction of one of his defenders. More alert was Berbatov, who intercepted the clearance and smashed the ball back goalwards, past the despairing Hayeu and into the top right corner of the net.
It could have been two moments later when a Defoe piledriver was tipped onto the bar, but Paul Robinson was called on to make a smart save at the other end from Adrian Cristea.
The football was slick, the game very watchable and in the first half an hour there was really only one show in town - the one decked out in all-white.
This was emphasised on 38 minutes when Defoe skipped past Stefan Radu and made a dash for goal before cooly dispatching the ball past Hayeu and into the bottom right hand corner of the goal at the Park Lane. It was a goal all of his own making and a superbly created and executed one at that.
On 49 minutes the game was really up for Dinamo. Didier Zokora picked out Berbatov who, in turn, switched the point of attack to the left where Ghaly was waiting to play in Lennon from the edge of the penalty area. Lennon was denied by a last ditch challenge, but the ball ran loose and Defoe was on hand to slot in his second of the night.
It was by this point a display of complete domination, with Dinamo struggling to string two passes together. Berbatov was a picture of poise and purpose striding around in attack, with Defoe darting around either side of him with a hunger to hunt for further additions to his goal tally that he had pushed up to nine, with eight in his last seven starts.
With Manchester City in mind, the time for changes came on 67 minutes and Ledley King was given time out by Calum Davenport. Next off was Huddlestone - who gave a Rolls Royce performance - was taken off to a huge ovation and replace by Steed Malbranque.
The chances continued to flow and Hayeu's goal was leading a charmed life at times before the team indulged in a spot of keep-ball, much to the delight of a crowd of 34,004. Paul Stalteri was next onto the pitch in place of Pascal Chimbonda.
Dinamo were completely deflated but roused themselves to net a consolation goal in stoppage time through Jean Philippe Mendy, but it should not take the shine off a night when the boys put on the style and registered a first place finish in Group B with a maximum 12 points banked. Looking forward to the draw already!