PARIS, France, September 16 – A young Tottenham side held PAOK Salonika to a scoreless draw Thursday as fellow British sides struggled to make a significant impact on the first night of Europa League group action.
While Fulham drew 1-1 with Dutch side FC Twente and Stoke came seconds away from pulling off the shock of the night in a 1-1 draw away to Dynamo Kiev, Scottish side Celtic fell to a 2-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid.
Spurs, who play Liverpool on Sunday in the Premier League, made 10 changes to their side and that decision looked questionable as the Greeks piled on the pressure in a lively second half.
PAOK could have gone 1-0 up just after the half hour mark after Carlo Cudicini tripped Stefanos Athanasiadis inside the Spurs box.
But after Lino converted the spot-kick, the Brazilian defender was forced to retake the spot-kick. Luckily for Spurs, Lino dragged his second attempt wide.
Roman Pavlyuchenko’s fierce drive, which brushed the top netting of Dario Kresic’s goal, was Spurs’ best chance of the half.
Athanasiadis then failed to convert a superb chance after slipping past Sebastien Bassong and Vedran Corluka on 67 minutes.
Spurs escaped 10 minutes later when Cudicini had to scramble across goal to tip Pablo Garcia’s low drive wide.
In a tense finish Athanasiadis saw his shot parried by Cudicini, and the Italian did brilliantly to block down low to deny the forward a winner thanks to an acrobatic volley.
Fulham have been unbeaten in 20 European home games, stretching back to their European debut — a 0-0 UEFA Intertoto Cup draw against FC Haka in 2002.
They took a 19th minute lead at Craven Cottage thanks to Andrew Johnson, however in a lively encounter the Premier League side were pegged back by a 41st-minute equaliser courtesy of striker Luuk De Jong.
“In the first half we should have been two or three up. Of course they’re a good team but when you put them under that sort of pressure you should be winning,” said Fulham manager Martin Jol.
“We still wanted to play with four forward players but if you don’t put the goals away you get frustrated and put pressure on yourself. The only thing now is that we have to put the chances away.”
Celtic’s entry to this year’s competition, only confirmed on Wednesday when Swiss club FC Sion’s UEFA ban for using ineligible players, started disastrously.
In the second minute Diego’s cross was met by Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and he bulleted his header from 10 yards past Hoops goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
After spending much of the first period in their own half, Celtic made attempts to take the game to the Spaniards after the interval. Charlie Mulgrew’s free kick from 20 yards out on 66 minutes was the closest they got to a goal.
Two minutes later, Celtic were punished for slack marking in the area when Diego coolly first-timed a cut-back from the byeline to beat Forster with ease.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis sent out a defence-minded 5-3-2 formation in a bid to catch Dynamo on the counter-attack, and those tactics paid off when Cameron Jerome, on his debut, scored against the run of play in the 55th minute.
Stoke defended well throughout the second half and looked to be heading for a shock win, however their hearts were broken when Ognjen Vukojevic tapped home in stoppage time.
Birmingham went down 3-1 at home to last season’s runners-up Braga while little Irish side Shamrock Rovers slumped 3-0 at the hands of Russia’s Rubin Kazan.