Scottish Premier League

Ojamaa revelling in Well attack

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Thu, 14 Mar 2013 18:31:00

Tottenham squeezed through to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals thanks to the away goals rule despite a 4-1 extra-time defeat at the hands of Inter Milan at the San Siro.

The Serie A giants wiped out the Londoners' 3-0 advantage from the first leg with goals from Antonio Cassano, Rodrigo Palacio and an own-goal from William Gallas.

Emmanuel Adebayor scored in the 96th, only for Ricardo Alvarez to give the Italians hope again in the second period of extra-time, but Andre Villas-Boas' side held on to advance.

The match action was a thrilling advert for the often-derided competition, but the night was tarnished by racist abuse from the home fans towards Adebayor.

Inter started like a team possessed. Cassano beat Brad Friedel at the third time of asking after two earlier strikes. The 30-year-old got on the end of a Palacio cross after Jonathan cut out Kyle Naughton and headed home from six yards.

Tottenham held back the tide before the interval, but soon after the restart Cassano found Palacio with a through-ball and he curled a shot beyond Friedel to make it 2-0.

Inter's quest to find a third looked set for failure until they won a free-kick 25 yards out with 15 minutes to go. Cassano struck the wall with a powerful low effort but it squirmed through and Gallas stuck out a leg and poked the ball past an off-balance Friedel.

Villas-Boas gathered his team together after the referee signalled the end of the normal 90 minutes and Tottenham seemed reinvigorated by the talk from their manager. Handanovic saved well from Aaron Lennon and Jan Vertonghen, while Gallas headed wide unmarked from eight yards.

Adebayor did not miss the target moments later, however, stabbing past Handanovic after the Inter goalkeeper spilled Mousa Dembele's shot.

The 2,000 travelling fans erupted in ecstasy, but they were back biting their finger nails again in the 110th minute when Ricardo Alvarez nodded home from Cassano's cross to make it 4-4 on aggregate.

The away goal meant Tottenham remained on course to go through, and despite late attempts from the home side Villas-Boas' team held on to enter the hat for the quarter-finals.


Webster won the Scottish Cup with Dundee United in 2010 before repeating the feat with Hearts last year and will lead the Edinburgh side out against St Mirren on Sunday in the absence of injured captain Marius Zaliukas.

The 30-year-old, who was at Hampden to promote the final, said: "Once you have finished your career you can look back and sit down and look at what has been and what could have been.

"But it's like anything, the more you experience it the more you want it, and Sunday is another opportunity for us to win.

"We had a great experience here last year with the Scottish Cup so it's something we will be looking to replicate on Sunday.

"Hopefully it stands you in good stead. There is a bit of experience.

"A few of us have been here before and know what to expect so hopefully that experience comes through on Sunday."

Webster's cup success came after some frustrating times earlier in his career.

The Scotland defender missed Hearts' 2006 Scottish Cup final win after being sidelined by club owner Vladimir Romanov when he declined a new contract offer.

A protracted move to Rangers followed and Webster would no doubt have anticipated the chance to win silverware.

But the centre-back made only three first-team appearances in light blue, only to find success at Tannadice and Tynecastle.

"You take these things as they come," Webster said. "I always have to look at it in a positive manner.

"It's great to win football trophies and this is another opportunity."

While Hearts have won three Scottish Cups in the last 15 years, League Cup success has eluded them since 1963.

Webster said: "It's been 50 years and you look at some of the Hearts sides of the past. So it's a great opportunity for us to make a little bit of history."

Goodwin was part of the Republic of Ireland side that beat Italy to become European Under-16 champions in 1998, but is still to taste his first final as a professional - so he is relishing the Scottish Communities League Cup final against Hearts on Sunday.

The 31 year-old has declared himself fit for Hampden after missing four games with a calf injury, said: "It's hard to put it into words. It's the kind of thing that you dream about as a young boy when you are out playing football with your mates.

"To have the opportunity now at 31 to lead a team out at the national stadium is a fantastic moment personally for me and the club.

"This is my first cup final. We won the European cup under-16 with Ireland but that seems like a hell of a long time ago now.

"As a 16-year-old you just take things for granted, you don't really realise how big a moment that was.

"The older you get, you appreciate times like this and all the sacrifices that we have made through our career are all for days like this.

"And it would just be fantastic now to top it off with a winner's medal."

Goodwin feared that chance would pass him by last week as he struggled to overcome his injury.

"It's a huge relief," he said. "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a slight concern last week.

"But I've had great treatment from the physiotherapist."

St Mirren ruined Celtic's treble hopes in January with a well-deserved 3-2 victory in the semi-final to set up only the third League Cup final since 1995 not to feature one half of the Old Firm.

"It's a great opportunity for both clubs and both sets of supporters," said Goodwin, who is aiming to be the first Saints player to lift a major trophy since 1987.

"It is great to see not just the Old Firm running away with things. It's great to see clubs like ourselves there.

"I just hope we can get the job done, enjoy the occasion and enjoy the celebrations afterwards hopefully.

"We were looking back on some of the footage and it's absolutely incredible to see the scenes back in '87.

"It was unbelievable and it's far too long now for the St Mirren supporters to have to look back that far.

"I really hope we can create a bit of history of our own now on Sunday."

St Mirren manager Danny Lennon has confirmed defender Lee Mair is back in contention for Sunday's final after a rapid recovery from a stomach injury.

Lennon had all but written off the former Aberdeen player's chances of facing Hearts at Hampden earlier in the week but the centre-back joins Goodwin in shaking off injury just at the right time.

Lennon said: "Lee Mair has made a fantastic recovery, like Lazarus.

"We had him away to a specialist and we got good information so he quickly joined us on Tuesday evening up at St Andrews and he came through training fine.

"So fingers-crossed, that's a welcome bonus for us. I'm delighted for the player as well and hopefully he can come through it."

Mair could be joined by Estonian winger Sander Puri in the cup final squad with Lennon set to have talks with the trialist.

"Sander Puri came away with us and he's a player we are certainly looking to tie up," Lennon said.

"We have a meeting with his representatives and hopefully that can be tied up before Sunday.

"If the deal is done it would then give me another decision to make and if I felt he could give us a helping hand then I would use him."

Ferdinand gets his recall at the age of 34, 21 months after his last match for his country when Hodgson insisted he was dropped for "footballing reasons".

He is now set to be a key figure when England take on San Marino and Montenegro in crucial World Cup qualifiers later this month.

Ferdinand and Cole clashed after the John Terry race row when Ferdinand endorsed a tweet which referred to Cole as a 'choc ice', a phrase understood to mean someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside.

Hodgson, however, believes the pair can resurrect a defensive partnership for their country. Hodgson, whose selection of Ferdinand represents something of a climbdown, said: "They are very good friends from what I understand but we are talking about a football team here, not purely individuals.

"I would expect the pair of them to do their jobs for England, for Ashley to play as well as he can at left-back and for Rio to do his job at centre-back.

"I don't envisage any problems. If there are any I'll have to deal with them but I hope that the long-term friendship will re-emerge and any unfortunate incidents along the way will be quickly forgotten.

"At the moment he's (Ferdinand)in a rich vein of form. For me it was a no-brainer. We need a good centre-half, he is a good centre-half and he's playing well so I've selected him.

"It's not more complicated than that. There are no sinister reasons behind the selection or his lack of selection in the past."

Hodgson gave a strong hint that Ferdinand could have a prominent role to play against San Marino and Montenegro.

He said: "A player of Rio's calibre and Rio's age, you don't bring them into a squad as back-ups, you bring them into the squad or the team because you want them to make the team better, to give you a better chance of winning.

"So it wouldn't take too much guesswork to work out that he's in the squad in order to play rather than to make up the numbers."

He also floated the prospect of Ferdinand playing a part in the World Cup in Rio next year.

He said: "Who knows what the future holds? I can't give guarantees about the future, 2014 is a long way off but if Rio Ferdinand is still playing the way he is at the moment in 2014 he is going to be a major candidate for a place in the squad."

Another 'prodigal son' returned to Hodgson's 26-man squad in the shape of goalkeeper Ben Foster, who last played for England in November 2010 before taking a sabbatical with chronic back problems.

Foster, 30 next month, has been in superb form for West Brom this season and returns to understudy Joe Hart.

Hodgson said: "We are pleased we have two excellent goalkeepers. Ben is playing very well for his club at the moment and it is good that he has decided after a long absence that he wants to play again."

The news was not so good regarding Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who has been ruled out for three weeks with an ankle injury.

"It's disappointing for Jack," said Hodgson. "He had enjoyed a good spell of playing regularly after such a long lay-off. He did so well in a cameo appearance against Sweden and then against Brazil he was man of the match.

"So to find we can't use him again is a major blow - but we still have a strong squad."

With Everton's Phil Jagielka injured, it includes Tottenham centre-back Michael Dawson, who last played for the Three Lions in March 2011, plus his Spurs midfield team-mate Scott Parker - whose last game was at Euro 2012. Joleon Lescott, who has played sparingly for Manchester City recently, misses out.

The England boss, whose team lie in second place in Group H, two points behind Montenegro, also tried to play down the trip to Podgorica.

He said: "I still don't think these games are necessarily decisive.

"But it is important to go and get a result there. We go there to win and if we do we help our cause and make the autumn that bit easier."

Higdon is joint top-scorer in the Scottish Premier League with 19 goals, alongside Inverness forward Billy McKay and Leigh Griffiths of Hibernian, who visit Fir Park on Friday night.

Ojamaa only has two goals this season but he is joint top of the SPL assists table with 12, a position he shares with Caley Thistle winger Aaron Doran.

Ojamaa said: "It speaks volumes for the team and our attacking performance when Higgy is top goalscorer and me and Doran are top assists.

"That shows how good we are going forward and how well we have done this season. It's a credit to all of us.

"Michael has had a great year. It's a great fit with Michael.

"I think his first-time finishing is definitely the best I have ever played with.

"With the flair players we have around him such as myself, Nicky Law, Chris Humphrey, we had Murph (Jamie Murphy) before and now we have Faddy (James McFadden), Kallum Higginbotham, everybody can really complement him and create chances for him and he is just great at putting them away.

"We are very lucky to have him and he has had a great goalscoring season."

Victory over Hibs would put second-placed Motherwell five points clear in second place with their closest rivals Ross County and Inverness meeting on Saturday.

And Ojamaa is looking to extend Motherwell's lead ahead of the the split with games against Dundee and St Mirren to follow.

Ojamaa, who has been called up to Estonia's squad for World Cup qualifiers against Holland and Andorra, said: "It's really important that in the last eight games we really go into the next gear and finish strongly because it's still very tight.

"After the split there are going to be some very tight games and I'm expecting a lot of draws, although you never know.

"But these three games before the split are very, very important.

"It would be great for us to stay unbeaten and pick up a couple of wins along the way that would put us in a really strong position."

The 21-year-old added: "Inverness and Ross County are going to have a tough test between themselves and we have a tough test here against Hibs.

"I saw the Edinburgh derby and there was maybe not much in the game but I expect tomorrow to be a very tough test.

"They beat us with a high score (4-0) here last time which was totally undeserved.

"I'm happy with the way we went there and got the comeback win against them, but it's been good games between us and I'm really looking forward to it."

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