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Rubin see off Spurs to throw Group A wide open

FC Rubin Kazan 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur FC
Bebras Natcho scored the only goal of the game with a delightful free-kick which moved the hosts level on points with their opponents in Group A.

Rubin players rejoice after the only goal
Rubin players rejoice after the only goal ©Getty Images

FC Rubin Kazan moved level on points with Tottenham Hotspur FC and condemned their visitors to a first defeat in UEFA Europa League Group A thanks to Bebras Natcho's delightful second-half free-kick.

The Russian hopefuls had the better of the chances in an uneventful first half but made their dominance count after the break when Natcho curled expertly past a helpless Carlo Cudicini. Unable to respond, Tottenham consequently slipped off the summit in an increasingly tight section.

After a slow start to the game, it was Rubin who posed the greater threat through Gökdeniz Karadeniz down the right. The 31-year-old found Alan Kasaev on the edge of the penalty area but, despite skipping past Ryan Fredericks, Kasaev could only fire over.

The lively Karadeniz was at the heart of Rubin's next attack too, breaking free and supplying a dangerous cross which Cudicini could only parry to the feet of Christian Noboa. The Spurs goalkeeper made amends by tipping over Noboa's resulting drive, and he then produced a flying save to deny Natcho as Rubin began piling on the pressure.

With manager Harry Redknapp having stayed in England following minor heart surgery, Tottenham rarely created danger before the break. They nonetheless threatened an unlikely opener on 39 minutes when Roman Pavlyuchenko came close to converting Jermain Defoe's cutback.

The second half resembled the first and it was Kurban Berdyev's side who took the lead on 56 minutes, Natcho arcing a free-kick over the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner. They should perhaps have extended their advantage just past the hour too, but Salvatore Bocchetti volleyed over from another Natcho set piece.

Rubin almost sealed the victory with ten minutes remaining as Cudicini kept out Karadeniz's downward header from Noboa's cross, but, with Spurs failing to trouble Sergei Ryzhikov at the other end, it did not matter. The two sides now find themselves in a three-way race with PAOK FC for tickets to the last 32.