Moura and Spurs still believe, but progression looks tall order
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
While individuals could be blamed for Tottenham’s struggles in Europe, collectively the team have not been good enough
Tottenham Hotspur are facing up to the prospect of Europa League football at the start of 2019 unless they can produce a remarkable run of results in their final three games in Group B of this season’s Champions League.
Spurs headed to the Netherlands on Wednesday knowing they needed a win at PSV to get their campaign up and running after frustrating defeats away to Inter Milan and at home to La Liga champions Barcelona.
Approaching the final quarter of an hour in Eindhoven, Mauricio Pochettino’s team looked on course to achieve their first three points of the group, but Hugo Lloris saw red in the 79th minute and Luuk de Jong’s late equaliser salvaged the hosts’ a point.
The 2-2 draw means Spurs realistically need to win each of their final three matches in Group B, including a trip to Barcelona on December 11, to give themselves any type of chance of going through, but even that might not be enough.
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Still, Tottenham goalscorer Lucas Moura has not given up hope. He said: “As long as we have a chance, we will always believe. God’s plan!”
The Brazilian netted against PSV in the 39th minute to score his fourth goal of the season to level after Hirving Lozano had pounced on Toby Alderweireld’s error in the 30th minute.
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It was 1-1 at the break, but Spurs should have been ahead given the chances they missed with Harry Kane hitting the crossbar with a looping header.
Davinson Sanchez also had what appeared a legitimate goal ruled out for offside, after Alderweireld had been denied, even though Kane, the allegedly guilty party, wasn’t interfering with play.
Heung-min Son went close on a couple of occasions as well, but PSV almost retook the lead on the stroke of half time when Gaston Pereiro hit the woodwork from range.
Spurs kicked on after the restart and went ahead when Kane headed home Christian Eriksen’s cross, minutes after the Dane was denied, and the England captain almost grabbed a second, but Jeroen Zoet stopped his header brilliantly.
Erik Lamela, on as a substitute, then hit the crossbar before some wasteful play by the visitors’ resulted in Lloris being sent off.
The previously impressive Eriksen carelessly gave the ball away and Lozano raced onto a through ball. Tottenham captain Lloris rushed out of his goal and brought down the Mexican attacker.
It saw the France skipper receive a red card and although substitute Michel Vorm was able to save de Jong’s shot from the resulting free kick, in the 87th minute disaster struck as Spurs failed to clear and de Jong was left unmarked to flick home and earn his team a share of the spoils.
For Tottenham and Pochettino, it was déjà vu following late drama in earlier games with Inter and Barcelona.
At the San Siro, the Lilywhites were heading for a 1-0 win, thanks to Eriksen’s strike, but after failing to take their chances, they were punished when Mauro Icardi scored a stunner in the 85th minute and in stoppage time more poor defending from a set-piece saw Matias Vecino head home.
It increased the pressure on Spurs ahead of Barcelona’s visit to Wembley Stadium and once again they shot themselves in the foot.
With less than 90 seconds played, Tottenham’s back four were sliced open and Lloris come out wildly and it allowed Philippe Coutinho to open the scoring.
Ivan Rakitic’s sumptuous volley made it 2-0 in the 28th minute and while it was a fine strike, Spurs gave the ball away cheaply in the build-up to the effort.
Although Pochettino’s team showed great fight to get back in the game through Kane, Lionel Messi quickly made it 3-1 and despite Lamela reducing the deficit once more, poor defending again proved costly for Tottenham as Messi added a second in the 90th minute.
Wednesday’s draw in PSV summed up the club’s time in the Champions League this season; lots of chances created, but few taken plus cheap goals given away when in control of games.
It would be very easy to point the blame at Lloris for the two points dropped in the Netherlands, but Alderweireld and Sanchez were at fault for goals and Eriksen and Son could have done better with opportunities while the Dane gave the ball away in the build up to the red card.
Against Barca, Kieran Trippier was caught out of position for the opener and Moussa Sissoko could have done better for the visitors’ fourth goal.
While in Milan, Kane should have scored an excellent first-half chance and Serge Aurier lost his man for the winner.
So individuals have been at fault in the three games, but when you factor everything in, the main reason Spurs have struggled in Europe this term is because collective they have not been good enough so far.
If they were more clinical in front of goal, they would have put matches against Inter and PSV to bed earlier and had they not been so sloppy at the back, they would have seen those aforementioned games out and maybe taken a point off Barca.
As it is, they are facing an early exit from the Champions League, yet where there’s hope, there’s life, but if Spurs are to achieve a miracle and qualify for the knock-out phase, they must improve in both penalty areas for the final three group games.