Match: Thursday 6th November 2014.
Competition: Europa League Group C.
Venue: Theodoros Kolokotronis Stadium.
Result: Asteras Tripolis 1-2 Tottenham.
Asteras GoalScorer: Berrales pen 90′.
Tottenham GoalScorers: Townsend pen 37′, Kane 42′.
Tottenham red card: Federico Fazio 90′.
It’s a win. The win we needed to put us in a comfortable position in Group C of the Europa League. As I mentioned in my match preview, it was always going to be a different game and result to the home game in which we won 5-1. Away from home, on a ‘so-so’ pitch and against a team that know how to be solid and counter at pace. It’s the result that is important and we have got that and now we can come home to London and concentrate on a big home game against Stoke on Sunday. The performance, especially defensively, is a little bit worrying, with not enough protection coming from the midfield and a flat back four, with a high line made it easier for Asteras to get in-behind and that’s where they got their penalty, our red-card and their goal, which left a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth of the fans and I’m sure, Mauricio Pochettino. Three points, though, away from home in Europe is always a good result and hopefully we can finish off the job and secure qualification against Partizan at home in the next game in the Europa League.
The first half was good from Spurs’ point of view; we kept the ball for what felt like 90% of the first period and Asteras didn’t really threaten us defensively, but sat deep and made it difficult for our more creative and powerful attacking players. But, our individual quality prevailed and after a lot of probing, thinking and what seemed to be the players figuring out a little bit more about the weaknesses of Asteras, Andros Townsend marauded down the left flank and Asteras’ Sankare, who dived in at Townsend and gave away the penalty, which Townsend finished with aplomb to make it 1-0 on 37 minutes. This opened the game up a bit more for us; Townsend, who had been switched to the right hand side was very effective and continued to be a thorn in the Asteras defence. And it was Townsend who turned creator and produced a delightfully weighted and lofted cross for the in-form Harry Kane to prod home with his head on 42 minutes, which looked like it was game over. Not Harry’s most beautiful goal ever, but he seems to be doing everything right in his goalscoring game. Half time fell and we looked comfortable for the three points.
In the second period, though, we started badly; reminiscent of the game against Newcastle, in which we looked comfortable but became complacent and lacked focus. It was exactly the same and at the back we were at six’s and seven’s, not able to regain the ball and the control of the game and this was the story throughout the second half, where Asteras showed their game plan to much better effect in this half, counter attacking well and creating chances, while still keeping their shape and remaining compact. The chances they were creating were clear cut enough, working the keeper and missing by small margins. We were lucky for our lead not to be cut until so late on, but it was poor, poor finishing from a side that looked unable to stick the ball in the back of the net. From what looked like a comfortable position at 2-0, was now looking hard to hold onto which is disappointing from our point of view, but it was a credit to Asteras who are a decent side and showed it in the second half. Despite all of the chances in the second period for Asteras, it was a penalty that they needed to get a goal back, and it came too late for them in the end to snatch a point. Federico Fazio getting caught out, and Jerónimo Berrales going down after minimal contact from the big Argentine, and he was fortunate to get the call, as I’d say it was a very soft penalty. Federico, being the last man and the foul being given, had to be shown a red card, which was unfortunate.
The team did the job in the end which they were set out to do. It wasn’t pretty at times, we didn’t pass the ball as well as we would have liked and we didn’t create the chances that you’d expect, but we got two goals and that was enough to dismantle a wasteful Asteras side. For me, Andros Townsend has to be given the man of the match award, but it’s a difficult one as there weren’t too many stand out performances. So, Townsend has to be given the honour of the Addicted To Spurs man of the match after scoring and assisting the two goals that eventually got us the win! I’ve said it for a long while now, but Andros Townsend needs to be given a sustained run at the left midfield role; he has the pace and directness to play there, and also, as shown in the second goal with his cross for Harry Kane, he has the delivery also and with a Harry Kane, or Emmanuel Adebayor in the box, we will get goals from those crosses. For me, Townsend is so much more effective and less wasteful on the left than on the right. Michel Vorm in goal deserves a mention; he made a lot of good saves and his distribution was very good, hopefully he can continue to perform for us in the Cup competitions, but I don’t think playing well in these games would be enough to replace Hugo Lloris, and I think he knows that! Harry Kane scores again and it’s his 10th goal for Spurs this season, and 13th for both club and country. That’s an incredible tally for a 21 year old and now, he has to be given the opportunity to start in the Premier League, he has earned it. But, it’s also correct of Mauricio Pochettino to protect him and not introduce him too early. Kane is young, and his career is a marathon, not a sprint.
The result we wanted. Whether we did it in the fashion we wanted is besides the point, it’s 3 points and we are in a commanding position to go through to the Knockout stages. Now, the attention turns back to the Premier League, and win against Stoke is desperately needed after a poor run of form at White Hart Lane in the League. Sunday 9th November is the date, and you can follow it all with my at my Twitter account, @AddictedToSpurs.. COYS!!
My player ratings for the team that faced Asteras in Greece:
Vorm – 7.5
Dier – 6
Fazio – 5
Vertonghen – 6.5
Davies – 6.5
Stambouli – 6
Dembele – 7
Lamela – 6 (Sub 46′: Soldado – 6)
Townsend – 8 – Man of the Match.
Eriksen – 6 (Sub 63′: Mason – 5.5)
Kane – 7.5. (Sub 76′: Paulinho – 5)
Pochettino post match interview: