(Benfica win 5-3 on aggregate)
TOTTENHAM manager Tim Sherwood believes the public chastisement of his players in the wake of their recent 4-0 hammering by Chelsea got the desired reaction, following their spirited exit from the Europa League last night.
Despite travelling to Lisbon without 10 first team players and bidding to turnaround a 3-1 first-leg deficit with a makeshift team and bench flooded with teenage rookies, Spurs came close to sending the last-16 tie to extra time thanks to Nacer Chadli’s brace, before a late penalty cemented Benfica’s progress.
Sherwood accused his players of lacking guts and character after capitulating at Stamford Bridge on 8 March, but was delighted with the desire displayed in Lisbon.
“It’s evident that the players are on my side and the side of the club. My little rant has done them no harm,” said Sherwood. “They showed real character and real guts. They need to do that until the end of the season, because we’ve got tough games ahead.
“The 3,000 travelling fans from London must be proud of what they saw. The boys are very proud about what the fans have done for them as they stuck behind them, travelled in numbers and the boys have put in a performance which they can go and be proud of.”
Sherwood chose to watch the second leg from the stands at the Estadio da Luz, rather than the sidelines, risking no repeat of being taunted by opposite number Jorge Jesus as he was at White Hart Lane last week.
And Sherwood admitted he took pleasure in watching Jesus squirm during a grandstand finish.
“It was good to see their manager sweating,” he added. “I did not see a suave character on the side, he was really flustered which was good to see.
“But congratulations to him. He’s got the chance to wave his fingers at a few more managers in this competition.”
Benfica began the game having not conceded a goal at home since December, but were on the backfoot in the opening half an hour and Roberto Soldado should have opened the scoring, but scuffed a half volley into the ground and over the crossbar.
Spurs were punished for not netting on 34 minutes when Eduardo Salvio glided past captain-for-the-night Aaron Lennon and crossed for Ezequiel Garay to power in a header.
The visitors looked beaten, but two goals in as many minutes from Chadli sparked renewed hope.
The Belgian blasted in from the edge of the box on 78 minutes, then hooked home Harry Kane’s knock-down.
Kane had strong claims for a penalty waved away before both he and Gylfi Sigurdsson forced saves from goalkeeper Jan Oblak in a frantic finale.
But, with the final kick of the game, Rodrigo Lima converted a penalty after Salvio tripped Sandro.