Tottenham failed to gain a grip
on Europa League Group J despite taking a very early lead in the
gamer at Anderlecht, only ending up failing to take anything from
the trip to Belgium as they return home with a 1-2 defeat.
The attack on Spurs fans in
Brussels the evening before the game set the tone for the evening,
with the team constantly attacking Spurs once they got into the game.
The ring of steel around the ground ensured no incidents took place
within its vicinity.
The game started at a
break-neck speed and the score could have been 2-1 after two
minutes. An early cross from Ezekiel almost caught Hugo Lloris out
and his save almost palmed the ball into his own net, but it went
wide for a corner. From that, the home side played the ball back and
a cross came in for Dendonker to head on target from the edge of the
penalty area, but it was straight at the centrally positioned Spurs
When Lloris belted the ball up-field, Christian Eriksen nudged a
defender off the bouncing ball and took his shot early, but didn't
get much power behind it. Even then, goalie Proto was left limping
as he fell with his weight on his ankle.
Spurs attacked again and a ball through to Eriksen was a little
behind him, but his flick hit a defender and it ricocheted back into
his path off the face of Dendonker and the Danish midfielder drove
the ball past the right hand side of the keeper to find the net and
give Tottenham the lead with just four minutes on the clock.
Tottenham looked comfortable, stroking the ball around and creating
shots for Eriksen (blocked) and Lamela, through into the box from
Eriksen's pass, but it was stuck under his feet and his shot was
saved by the keeper.
Anderlecht were picking up corners, from which Spurs did not look
confident in defending. With Vertonghen wrestling at the near post,
the ball skipped through to the back of the penalty area, where
Gillet chested the ball down and hit a low volley beyond Lloris'
dive to equalise in the 13th minute.
With a foul on Okaka, Alderweireld conceded a free-kick on the
Belgian side's left. Defour played it in and a poor header out
dropped for Okaka, who struck the ball first time and fiercely,
forcing Lloris to beat out the shot with a fine save.
Spurs thought they had gone one better, with Vertonghen picking off
an Anderlecht pass inside their half and moving forward with the
ball. As he got to the edge of the box, stretching, he slipped the
ball to his right, where Lamela passed the ball inside the keeper's
right hand post and into the goal. Unfortunately, he was a good
coupleof yards offside and the goal was chalked off.
The final third of the first half was to and fro, but neither side
carved out a meaningful chance.
After the break, the teams exchanged attacks, with N'Jie taking a
pass from Eriksen inside the area, but losing out to a good tackle
by Deschacht and then Gillet moving onto a ball from Tielemens,
striking it first time and with power, but finding Lloris right
behind it. N'Jie curled an effort from the left corner of the box
wide of the far post and Ezekiel was put in on their right side, but
his shot went wide.
Kane replaced N'Jie before he got sent off, having been booked and
then called for a foul very soon afterwards. Pochettino probably
wanted to wait to use Harry, but the introduction must have been
trepidatious, carrying a knock already and knowing another blow
could rule him out.
A corner for Anderlecht picked out Kara and his header down was
almost deflected into the net by Okaka inside the six yard box, but
Lloris dived to his right to gather the ball just in front of the
goal-line. Spurs broke away and the ball was worked to Eriksen on
the left side, but his effort was blocked by Gillet. Poch decided to
bring Dele Alli on for Dembele, with 25 minutes left.
Kane got in behind Kara onto a ball hooked down the left hand
channel and was one on one with Proto, but his low shot could not
beat the keeper, who stuck out a foot to divert the ball away from
Too often, Tottenham were playing in tight areas and conceded
possession, allowing Anderlecht to go forward. Sometimes the Mauves
weren't much better, but Spurs need to exploit the opportunities
they are provided with, especially against the better sides they
face. The other failing Spurs showed tonight was the giving away of
cheap free-kicks either in dangerous positions or to break up their
own attacking play.
It was giving the ball away that led to Anderlecht's second goal.
The ball was moved across from right to left and a ball inside
Trippier found Acheampong, who slid a ball to the middle of the six
yard box, where Okaka got ahead of Vertonghen and knocked the ball
home from close range. It left 15 minutes for Spurs to try and
recover the game, which they were winning very early on.
It was from a set-piece that it could have been 3-1. Kara won the
ball in the air and headed back across goal from the far post to
where Okaka and Dendonker were unmarked, with the last goal-scorer
looking for a bicycle kick which might have put off the defender,
who headed wide when well-placed to score.
Tottenham brought on Josh Onomah for Andros Townsend, but Anderlecht
almost scored again when Acheampong pulling the ball back for
Tielemens, but he had an air shot. Okaka went on a run across the
pitch after getting onto a loose ball, with the Spurs defenders
seemingly unable to dispossess him.
As Spurs pushed forward for an equaliser, the poor first touch, poor
delivery into the box from wide positions or poor weight of pass let
them down and made it a simple task for the Belgian team to run the
clock down. They almost did it was 3-1 winners when Acheampong once
more got onto a pass inside Trippier and pulled the ball back low.
Davies got to it, but set it up for Praet, whose shot was deflected
by Vertonghen right in front of Lloris, who managed to get behind
the ball and keep it out with an instinctive block.
Spurs looked weak on the ball tonight and were easily robbed of the
ball without a free-kick given against them. There was little
conviction having gone 1-0 up to try and finish it off, with too
much aimless passing, instead of making inroads into the Belgian's
Pochettino had talked about being clinical, which is what Eriksen
was with the chance that came his way in the fourth minute, but too
many opportunities went begging without making Anderlecht work too
hard to defend them. Obviously, half an eye was on the game this
weekend with Bournemouth, but that should not have stopped the side
going out to make the home team work hard to get anything out of the
Townsend was getting a fair bit of possession, but, as often is the
case, his end product was missing. Sometimes, his pace seemed to be
missing and his first touch was not at his best. When he went off,
there was too often nobody in front of Trippier when he got the ball
in a wide position. Too often, Lloris' distribution either put
players in trouble or he put the ball straight out of play. This
will happen when you play the ball out from the back and it is even
more likely when teams start to press higher up the pitch, which is
what Anderlecht did in the second half. The defence too often
left Anderlecht players unmarked at set-pieces or left them with
space to get shots on goal. The modern style of defending with
arms behind their backs did not help, as the players forgot to get
in the way of the ball in the first place.
Another poor European away
day return, when Eriksen's early strike should have given them the
impetus to go on and dominate rather than allowing Anderlecht back
into the match. If Pochettino was hoping for a respite in the
last match, he might have to re-think that now, as the next two
games need to be victories to ensure the group is sewn up before the
trip to Qarabag.
If that is to happen, there
must be two better performances than this one.