Tottenham's Emmanuel Adebayor stuns 10-man Dnipro in comeback win

It was a night when everything boiled down to the nonsensical events of 13 minutes in the second half. Trailing 2-0 on aggregate to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Tottenham Hotspur's hopes of reaching the last 16 appeared to be in tatters. They were playing poorly, frustration was building inside White Hart Lane and there was nothing to suggest that Tim Sherwood's side could score the three goals they required to progress.

However, it only takes a second to alter a game's narrative. Hopeless for much of the tie, Tottenham were banging their head against a brick wall until Christian Eriksen equalised after 56 minutes. Suddenly the mood changed. Six minutes later, Roman Zozulya, Dnipro's goalscorer, was sent off for a headbutt on Jan Vertonghen and by the 69th minute, Tottenham led 3-2 on aggregate thanks to two goals from Emmanuel Adebayor. What had looked like being a triumphant return to the club that fired him in 2008 for Dnipro's manager, Juande Ramos, ultimately became a harrowing experience. For Tottenham, the reward for an unlikely comeback is a tie against Benfica.

"I was delighted with the character," Sherwood said. "It's Tottenham. We find a hard way to do it. You probably all thought we were dead and buried."

Yet Tottenham will have to play with far more nous against opponents as illustrious as Benfica in a fortnight's time. They were outplayed for long periods in both legs and endured some fraught moments even after Dnipro had been reduced to 10 men. Hugo Lloris had to make three excellent saves in a frantic finale, including one from Yevhen Konoplyanka in stoppage time, while Dnipro were also denied by Sandro's last-ditch clearance after fine work from Matheus on the right.

Perhaps there will come a time when Sherwood finds that 4-4-2 is an inadvisable formation to use in Europe and that sometimes there is nothing wrong with applying the handbrake.

Not yet, though. Seeking to overhaul Dnipro's 1-0 lead from the first leg, Sherwood opted for a no-frills approach. His team had pace and creativity in the wide positions, while Adebayor was partnered by Roberto Soldado in attack. However, aside from a foul inside the first 10 seconds, Soldado's impact was minimal.

How Tottenham craved the presence of their greatest ever scorer in Europe. However, a hamstring injury denied Jermain Defoe a valedictory appearance before he heads off to FC Toronto and he had to settle for an emotional farewell interview on the pitch at half-time. Sherwood later said he wished Defoe could have returned to whip up the crowd, who had little to cheer in a bitty, tetchy first half.

For Ramos, the sight of Tottenham struggling for inspiration was a familiar feeling. He was famously sacked after Tottenham picked up two points from their first eight games in 2007-08, eight months after he had led them to the League Cup. Ramos also won the Uefa Cup twice with Sevilla. He is no mug.

His Dnipro side could play, too. Although they were happy to soak up the aimless pressure in the first half, they were slick on the break and Konoplyanka was a constant thorn in Kyle Naughton's side. Matheus's speed was also a threat.

Dnipro took the lead after 47 minutes. Ruslan Rotan's delivery with a free-kick from the left was exquisite and Zozulya's header beat Lloris, who could not keep it out despite getting a hand to the ball.

Tottenham could have slumped after conceding an away goal, but their response was magnificent. First Soldado was denied an equaliser by an offside flag, before Eriksen gave Tottenham a lifeline by bending a low free-kick inside Denys Boyko's right post after 55 minutes.

Konoplyanka then sent a precise shot against the left post from 20 yards, before Zozulya pressed the self-destruct button after 62 minutes. He had been bickering with Vertonghen throughout and eventually snapped before a Tottenham free-kick. Ramos thought the referee, Antony Gautier, was a "bit strict" to show a red card and Dnipro also thought Soldado threw an elbow in the first half. "The guy stuck his nut in his nose so you've got no chance of staying on," Sherwood said. Vertonghen certainly made the most of it, but it was hard to defend Zozulya.

The temperature was rising. Tottenham were rampant and they scored their second goal three minutes later. Eriksen was prominent again and his cross found Adebayor, who tapped past Boyko.

Tottenham still needed one more goal and it arrived four minutes later, Adebayor chesting down Zeki Fryers' long ball and finishing confidently. Never in doubt.

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