Sevilla FC striker Frédéric Kanouté scored against his old club but the holders will have to protect a slender 2-1 lead in London next Thursday after Robbie Keane conjured a vital away goal for Tottenham Hotspur FC in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg.
Pulsating first half
The in-form No10 gave the English side a breathtaking start with just 68 seconds on the clock, yet Kanouté – who spent two years at White Hart Lane – calmly equalised from the spot 17 minutes later, before Aleksandr Kerzhakov headed a 36th-minute winner during a pulsating first half.
With both teams enjoying a reputation for attacking football, there was always a feeling that the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán would be in for an explosive encounter. Few could have predicted how quickly the match would come to life though, Keane latching on to Dimitar Berbatov's perfect through-ball to stab past Andrés Palop, after the fit-again goalkeeper had parried the Irishman's initial effort.
Keane's ninth strike in as many games provoked a rousing response from the local fans, who answered coach Juande Ramos's call to support the cause. Their heroes did not take long to draw level either, scoring from their first chance as former Tottenham striker Kanouté calmly side-footed in a penalty after goalkeeper Paul Robinson was adjudged to have fouled Adriano Correia.
Frustrated, Martin Jol's men attempted to wrest back control through Berbatov, who curled a low shot towards the far corner from the edge of the area. Palop saved well, however, and the incredible pace continued when Pascal Chimbonda's strong shoulder barge prevented Kerzhakov from scoring, before Robinson produced a fantastic stop at full stretch from a long-range Jesús Navas piledriver.
As good as that save was, the England No1 was helpless on 36 minutes when the unmarked Kerzhakov headed in after Julien Escudé had nodded the ball dangerously across goal from the left. Michael Dawson then came close at the other end, launching himself at a Jermaine Jenas corner yet directing his header wide.
It seemed unlikely that the two rivals could keep up the same intensity after the break and so it proved, the game becoming more notable for niggling fouls. Maintaining a high line, the Premiership outfit now looked the more adventurous of the pair, and the energetic Keane reminded Sevilla of his presence in the 58th minute with a drive flashed narrowly beyond Palop's far post from wide on the left. That spurred the hosts into action, and Kanouté came close to grabbing a second as he drilled Adriano's low centre just off target soon after.
What had become a stop-start affair briefly livened up when Berbatov broke free down the left, only for his touch to let him down at the crucial moment. Both protagonists increasingly appeared content with the scoreline, though that did not stop Kanouté feeling he had missed a glorious opportunity when he deflected a header past the post from a great position. Tottenham's Didier Zakora and substitute Steed Malbranque both squandered chances to equalise late on, suggesting Jol's team must work on their finishing before next week.