It’s been a rough season in Europe for Tottenham.
First they failed to advance past the group stage of the Champions League, and now they’ve been knocked out in the Europa League Round of 32.
It was a 2-2 draw on the night, but a 3-2 loss on aggregate. Two crushing away goals were the difference.
Mauricio Pochettino made a statement by opting to start close to a first-choice 11. He returned to playing with 3 CBs, which is possible now with Jan Vertonghen back from injury.
Spurs have been at their best this season in the 3 CB system, and they looked initially to be at their best in this one. They were all over Gent at the start, with Christian Eriksen finding the breakthrough on 10 minutes.
The Belgian side misplayed a long ball from the back, and Eriksen had an easy path to waltz in and slide the ball past Kalinic. Wembley was loud, and a bit relieved.
But it was not to last.
Spurs almost added to their lead, but instead were pegged back from a familiar position. Gent had a corner kick, despite replays showing it should have been a Tottenham goal kick. They put the ball in a dangerous area, and Kane accidentally put it into his own net.
It was a crucial away goal for Gent. And Spurs always had to climb uphill after that.
But the hill was turned into a mountain when Dele was sent off in the 39th minute. He was fouled, but the ref didn’t give it. Dele responded with a moment of madness, as he dove in two-footed on Dejaegere.
The referee had a poor night overall, but this was the right call. Dele can not do that.
Spurs actually looked better after the red card, and made a real go of things in the second half. Pochettino brought Son on for Davies, as Gent were really sitting deep in their own half.
Victor Wanyama scored in the 61st minute to give Spurs the lead on the night. Eriksen made a brilliant touch backwards to the top of the box, and Wanyama fired the ball past Kalinic.
Still, Spurs needed another goal. They pushed and came close on numerous occasions, but it was not to be.
A Gent counter in the 82nd minute was stabbed home by Jeremy Perbet, after he was set up by Kalifa Coulibaly. It was a backbreaking goal that effectively ended the tie. Some Spurs players lay on the ground face-down, and Wembley began to empty.
Pochettino’s side played quite well, but lost the match in a couple key moments.
It was another defeat on the big stage of Wembley. Spurs will need to start playing a lot better in Northwest London. They could be back this season in the FA Cup, and they’re set to spend the whole season their next season.
But most importantly, it was another disappointing European night, in a continental campaign which had so much promise at the beginning.