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Wasteful Tottenham are staring at Euro exit

BY ROBERT JONES

Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul is not throwing in the towel despite his side's 3-1 Europa League defeat to Benfica.

Spurs will head to Portugal for next Thursday's last-16 second leg with it all to do after a horror night at White Hart Lane.

Christian Eriksen's free-kick was the only bright spot as Spurs failed to heed Tim Sherwood's warnings about improving their performances.

"Everything is possible in football," Kaboul said. "We will go there to win and see what happens.

"When we scored our goal we thought it gave us a bit of a push but we let one in straight away and then it was too late.

"We have to go for it next week."

The pressure on Tim Sherwood and Tottenham cranked up a gear as their hopes of reaching the Europa League quarter-finals were made remote.

Sherwood publicly criticised his players after Saturday's embarrassing 4-0 defeat to rivals Chelsea, which midfielder Sandro revealed led to a furious two-hour crisis meeting at Stamford Bridge.

However, there was to be no morale-boosting response in this last 16 tie against Benfica, who ran out 3-1 victors to make them overwhelming favourites to progress ahead of next week's second leg.

Failure to overcome the Portuguese giants – now unbeaten in 24 matches – likely means Tottenham face another year without a trophy and is hardly the ideal preparation for this weekend's north London derby against Arsenal.

That is a match which could extinguish any remaining top-four hopes harboured by Spurs, whose manager Sherwood's position is likely to come under even more scrutiny after this latest defeat.

Benfica were always going to prove tough opponents, with last year's Europa League runners-up arriving in north London unbeaten in 18 weeks. They had won 21 of 23 fixtures in all competitions during that run.

Eyebrows were raised ahead of kick-off when Harry Kane was handed just his second start of the season ahead of Spain international Roberto Soldado.

Paulinho was the other alteration from the side hammered at Stamford Bridge, starting in central midfield alongside Sandro.

Benfica's run looked likely to be extended when Bolton loanee Rodrigo slotted home after a tremendous Ruben Amorim ball just before the half-hour mark.

Spurs failed to test Benfica goalkeeper Jan Oblak in the first half and were jeered off at half-time, from which they returned with Emmanuel Adebayor uncharacteristically dragging wide when well placed.

The missed chance allowed the visitors to take control as woeful defending allowed Luisao to divert home, before Christian Eriksen scored a wonderful free-kick.

However, Spurs never looked likely saving their 11-match unbeaten European record at White Hart Lane as Luisao smashed home his second of the night, with Sherwood and counterpart Jorge Jesus refusing to shake hands at the final whistle.

Jesus showed three fingers to Sherwood after Benfica scored their last goal, antagonising the Spurs boss with the fourth official having to separate the two afterwards.

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