While I’ve had some good memories watching Tottenham Hotspur play on Thanksgiving Day in years past, in the days leading up to Thursday’s match I decided that this year I would rather have a football-free Thanksgiving with family and excellent food than try and arrange my schedule around a football match.
It seems I made a good decision in that regard.
Tottenham Hotspur traveled to Maribor, Slovenia to play [checks notes] NS Mura, currently fifth in the Slovenian Premier League, and the lowest-ranked team in the third tier Europa Conference League... and lost, 2-1. Spurs went behind after 11 minutes thanks to a defensive slip (in more than one sense of the word) by Davinson Sanchez that resulted in Tommy Horvat rifling a shot into the top corner past Pierluigi Gollini. Then after a half hour, Spurs were down to ten men after Ryan Sessegnon picked up his second yellow card for a rash challenge.
Spurs came back to dominate much of the second half, equalized via Harry Kane and threatened on several other occasions, only to have all that work completely undone again when Mura scored a second time at the death on a deflected shot that caromed off Davinson Sanchez again.
This was basically Mura’s Super Bowl, their Disney underdog sports movie, maybe their Miracle on Ice, pick your simile. The thing about David vs. Goliath matches is that sometimes David actually wins. Mura won the match 2-1 and Spurs’ Europa Conference League-winning campaign is now on the verge of being derailed in the group stage.
Yowza. I watched a replay in the evening over some pie and a strong cup of decaf, both of which I enjoyed far, far more than the match. Here are my notes.
- Let’s start with some good (or at least not awful) news: Tanguy Ndombele looked pretty good, at least compared with most of the other Tottenham performances in Maribor. Others will probably disagree, but I think they’re wrong. Also thought Joe Rodon looked pretty good and was kind of surprised that he was one of the four (!) subbed off instead of Sanchez.
- Davinson, yikes. He played pretty well against Leeds, so it was surprising to see him perform this badly, but he was pretty awful throughout. Was put on skates for Mura’s first goal (which was a banger, btw) even before the slip, and while he was unfortunate on the second, he also got skinned again. I dunno, y’all. I hate to make sweeping statements based on one awful performance, but that was not a good look.
- Bless Harry, he tried but he couldn’t carry this team on his back the entire match, especially down to ten men.
- Dele was another player who really REALLY needed to impress on Thursday and didn’t, at all. I am a founding member of the Dele Defense League™ and am desperate for him to prove the haters wrong — I’ll point out two times where he made good runs into space and wasn’t spotted — but I’m starting to really wonder now if he doesn’t need to leave ASAP just for his own sanity.
- Bryan Gil is obviously a talented young player, but I’m not sure where he fits in a Conte side.
- Matt Doherty is just a poor player, and in my head is up there with Grzegorz Rasiak, Bongani Khumalo, and David Bentley as one of Spurs’ worst ever signings.
- Sessegnon had a nightmare game, but I still think he has the ability to be a solid performer for Spurs and I disagree strongly with the (ridiculous) kneejerk calls for him to be sold after this match. If anyone can improve him, it’s Conte. Give him a chance.
- We’ll get into Conte’s comments later, but suffice it to say he knows just how big a project he has on his hands at Spurs at the moment. Tottenham are just not very deep.
- Rennes drew 3-3 with Vitesse today, which would’ve been fantastic news for Spurs had they won today. Now, Rennes has clinched the group and Spurs play them at home in the final group stage match. Spurs will need to match or better Vitesse’s result against Mura (Spurs have a +2 GD) if they want to escape the group, and even then they are now guaranteed a playoff series against a third place team from the Europa League group stages.