Lloris saves Spurs as AVB’s boys grab a point against Lazio in Rome
Europa League: Lazio 0 Tottenham 0
Tottenham will need a point from their final Europa League group match against Panathinaikos after another goalless draw against Lazio in Rome tonight.
The Lilywhites drew 0-0 with their Italian counterparts at White Hart Lane in September, and neither side were able to find a breakthrough in Italy.
Spurs captain Gareth Bale had a goal wrongly disallowed early on, but the visitors were exceedingly fortunate to escape with a clean sheet and were indebted to their superb goalkeeper Hugo Lloris on a number of occasions.
Andre Villas-Boas attempted to push for victory, making three attacking substitutions by bringing Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Mousa Dembele off the bench.
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However, Spurs struggled to create chances throughout and were lucky to remain unbeaten away from home in Group J.
With Panathinaikos beating Maribor 1-0 in Athens this evening, Tottenham remain second in the group and will qualify for the knock-outs as long as they avoid defeat against the Greeks at the Lane on December 6.
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Paul Gascoigne played for both Spurs and Lazio, and the England legend attended tonight’s match, making a lap of honour before the start.
Emmanuel Adebayor was available to play as he prepares to start a three-match domestic ban in the Premier League, and he was preferred to Jermain Defoe up front, while Gylfi Sigurdsson, Steven Caulker, Tom Carroll and Clint Dempsey were recalled to the starting XI.
Having had two goals wrongly disallowed in the previous meeting with Lazio at the Lane, Spurs suffered the same injustice in the fifth minute tonight as Bale raced onto Carroll’s incisive through ball and rounded the keeper to score – only to see the offside flag raised.
It was a positive start from the Lilywhites, but they gradually lost their way, becoming increasingly nervy and showing signs of a general lack of confidence as their hosts began to take control
Stefan Radu cut inside Sigurdsson on the right and teed up Senad Lulic, who fired over the bar, and Kyle Naughton then had to be alert to block a Libor Kozac effort.
Christian Ledesma nearly deceived Lloris with a swerving 25-yard effort, but the Tottenham keeper stuck out his left hand and palmed the ball onto the post before reaching the loose ball first and completing the clearance.
Lazio keeper Federico Marchetti was forced into the action at the other end, diving back into his net to claw Bale’s dipping cross-cum-shot over the bar.
However, it was the home side who finished the half on top, with Kozac getting three clear sights of goal before the interval.
The Czech forward was denied from 10 yards by Lloris’ outstretched foot before heading wastefully wide and then being narrowly beaten to a through ball by the alert, onrushing France captain.
Tottenham initially looked less vulnerable after the break and there was little goalmouth action in a dull 15 minutes, which suited the visitors.
However, Sandro save the ball away on the hour-mark and breathed a huge sigh of relief as Lulic missed the target, shooting into the side netting with Lloris already moving away to the other sideof his goal.
That was the cue for Villas-Boas to adopt a more offensive approach, with Defoe and Lennon coming on to replace the wholly ineffective Dempsey and Sigurdsson as the Lilywhites switched to 4-4-2.
Yet there was little improvement to Tottenham’s threat, and neither player had an impact in the closing 25 minutes.
Instead, Lloris was required to save again, diving to claim Kozac’s scuffed low effort before watching carefully as Ledesma’s 25-yard free-kick went narrowly wide.
Villas-Boas made another attacking substitution, with Mousa Dembele making his much-needed return from a hip injury in place of Carroll.
However, Lazio only grew in ascendancy, and the hugely impressive Lloris produced his best stop of the night late on, saving his side once again by blocking Michael Ciani’s header at close range as Spurs held on for a point.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Caulker, Naughton, Sandro, Carroll (Dembele 77), Dempsey (Defoe 64), Sigurdsson (Lennon 64), Bale, Adebayor.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs