Spurs had a 2-0 advantage at one point, but they couldn’t hold onto their lead as they drew 2-2 with Olympiacos in Athens. The Greeks showed that they won’t be pushovers in Group B.
Mauricio Pochettino decided to rotate just a bit for his squad’s first midweek game of the year. Dele Alli came back into the team, as did Tanguy Ndombele, Ben Davies, and Lucas Moura. Davinson Sanchez was chosen over Kyle Walker-Peters to start at right back, a position where the Colombian struggled against Arsenal 17 days ago.
Olympiacos’ Karaiskakis Stadium is an intimidating place to go. The Greek fans were passionate and loud and tried to make life as tough for the visitors as they could.
The crowd was emboldened by their team’s hot start. Olympiacos looked up for the task from the kickoff. They fired off some opening salvos, then Miguel Ángel Guerrero struck the post after Daniel Podence set him up with a chest pass.
Podence would prove to be a tricky cover for Spurs all night. The young Portuguese winger certainly doesn’t lack for skill or pace.
But it was the North Londoners who struck first. Harry Kane was tripped by Yassine Meriah as he entered the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Kane did what he always does, he stepped up and converted the penalty.
Pochettino’s side followed that first score up with a second one just four minutes later.
Davies pressed well to win the ball back, and then Lucas was given too much space as he approached the penalty area. The Brazilian made perfect contact and blasted one past a helpless José Sá.
Spurs looked threatening for the rest of the half, but so did Olympiacos. Georgios Masouras should’ve done better with an acrobatic shot he scuffed from point-blank range.
But the Greeks did get a goal just before halftime. It was Podence who produced a tremendous finish inside the far post after he was played in via a one-two with former Lyon and Marseille man Mathieu Valbuena.
Dele had the ball in the net in the opening minutes of the second half, but he was just offside.
Then it was Olympiacos’ turn to have a penalty. Tottenham had issues clearing the ball, and Vertonghen ended up stepping on the back of Valbuena’s boot. The Frenchman finished past his countryman Hugo Lloris from the spot to get a goal that his impressive performance probably deserved.
The stadium was rocking when the ball went in. The noise was particularly deafening when Spurs had possession. A trip to Athens is a tough way to start a group stage.
Pochettino responded to the equalizer by bringing Moussa Sissoko on for Tanguy Ndombele, who was a bit sloppy and slow in his Champions League debut for Spurs.
Dele’s best chance of the game came in the 65th minute. He beat his defender to break into the box, but Sá made a great kick-save to deny him.
The second half was proving to not be as open. Son Heung-Min came on for Dele as Pochettino went to his bench once again.
But Spurs attack couldn’t find the same success in the second half that it did in the first. Olympiacos were well disciplined in defense, and Christian Eriksen, Dele and the rest of the attack didn’t have their best games.
xG map for Olympiakos - Tottenham— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) September 18, 2019
another disjointed Spurs performance with what should have been more like the preferred XI for this side pic.twitter.com/nRcvepgNXe
Erik Lamela came on late and almost had a winner, but his shot was saved. He might’ve seen Kane in the middle of the box, but opted to go for goal instead.
In the end, Spurs were the ones hanging on for the draw.
The opening table for Group B won’t really take shape until Bayern Munich and Red Star play, but assuming Bayern win, this draw hurts Spurs’ chances of winning the group.
Obviously the main goal is just to advance, and the Lilywhites will have to be wary of Olympiacios when they come to London for the return leg.