After an emotional win against Brighton on the weekend the next assignment was a midweek Champions League tie against Eintracht Frankfurt. The previous matchup was a frustrating nil-all draw that was anything but boring, and both teams would have felt they could have gone away with perhaps more than a solitary point.
After rolling with the 3-5-2 in the weekend, Antonio Conte opted to shift back to his oft-used 3-4-3 formation, along with some light rotation. Lenglet came back in for Ben Davies, and Emerson Royal for Matt Doherty. Yves Bissouma dropped back to the bench for Richarlison, lining up alongside Harry Kane & Heung-Min Son. Some big news though was the return of Lucas Moura to the squad, fit again and riding the pine.
After a beautiful tribute to the late Gian Piero Ventrone, things kicked off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and it was a bit of a nervy start from Spurs. Ryan Sessegnon was absolutely clattered in the Tottenham half and Frankfurt broke forward, with an early cross finding Kamada in acres of space in the box; however, his touch was poor and the attack came to nothing. Tottenham had an early chance of their own after a deflected Sessegnon cross looped high to keeper Kevin Trapp, who was very casual in claiming the ball. Richarlison leapt and won the ball, but his header narrowly missed the far post.
A lot of the ensuing play was concentrated in the middle third, with neither side able to find much in the way of penetration. Spurs did have another early chance though, as Harry Kane broke down the right and drove the ball across the box in the hope of finding Son. The pass was unfortunately intercepted by a Frankfurt defender, before Eric Dier picked up a yellow for taking out Frankfurt striker Muani near the halfway line with a crunching tackle.
Frankfurt was the team that made the breakthrough. Spurs had looked shaky playing out of the back, and an atrocious touch by Eric Dier in his own box was picked up by Lindstrom, before deflecting to Rode making a late run. He calmly squared to Kamada, who tapped the ball in past Hugo Lloris and put Frankfurt into the lead.
It wasn’t long though before Tottenham struck back. Emerson Royal played a nice pass into Harry Kane, who turned and played a beautiful ball in to the onrushing Son. Son has struggled with his touch at times this season, but this time he controlled the ball beautifully, running in behind the Frankfurt defence and firing past keeper Trapp to level the scores.
Sonny continued to look dangerous as he wriggled his way into the box with some fancy footwork. There was a mild penalty shout as he nutmegged a Frankfurt defender and looked to get to the ball, but Spurs had to settle with a free kick won by Royal outside the box. Kane lined it up and duly fired it well over the crossbar.
The touch of Tottenham’s forwards was well and truly on song, with some great feet from Kane getting him into the box. He looked to be clear through on goal before he was bodied off the ball by Jakic in what looked like a clear foul. The referee somehow managed not to see it, but eventually VAR intervened and a penalty was awarded. Kane, always lethal from the spot (this aged well), dispatched the penalty and put Tottenham into the lead for the first time in the match.
Frankfurt had another chance of their own with Hugo Lloris making a very good save as Lindstrom attempted to finish near post from a wide angle. Tottenham then looked to break forward again, with a neat flicked-on header by Richarlison finding Son streaking forward. Some good defence pushed him wide and his shot was well saved by Trapp.
Tottenham soon increased their lead. A one-two on the edge of the box between Hojbjerg and Richarlison set the Danish midfielder free down the right. He controlled the ball beautifully before delivering a cross into the penalty area. Heung-Min Son was free near the penalty spot, and he lined up an exquisite left-footed volley, struck high into the net. It was a beautifully worked goal and glorious finish from Son, and Spurs had three.
Another Spurs break nearly resulted in a Son hat-trick. Sessegnon found Son on the left, but Trapp managed to stretch and get his boot to Son’s left-footed shot. There was another golden chance as Richarlison freed Royal down the right, but he took one too many touches and could only win a corner. Royal crossed the ball in off a short play, and Romero’s powerful header was well saved by Trapp. Tottenham went into the break good value for the 3-1 scoreline.
The second half began much as the first ended, with multiple fast Tottenham breaks not quite leading to goals. One massive early chance resulted from some great strength setting Richarlison free down the right. His cross was good but Ryan Sessegnon couldn’t beat Trapp, who made another excellent point-blank save.
Tottenham continued to knock on the door with an excellent run by Son winning a foul to the left of the Frankfurt 18-yard box, as well as a yellow card for Tuta. His free kick looked dangerous but Trapp punched clear. Son broke once more and to prevent him getting free Tuta opted to rugby tackle Sonny. It was a clear bookable offence, and the referee obliged. There was some brief confusion as the referee appeared to forget he had already booked Tuta, with the Tottenham players giving the Spaniard some strong reminders. Eventually, he reached into his back pocket for the red, and Frankfurt were down to ten men.
Frankfurt were lucky not to be down to nine soon after, with already-booked Hasebe going through the back of Harry Kane at the top of the box, before taking out Heung-Min Son on yet another fast break. Harry Kane confronted the referee, incredulous at the lack of a second yellow. Amidst the confusion, Spurs made a couple of substitutions with Oliver Skipp and Yves Bissouma coming on for Bentancur and Richarlison to shift to a 3-5-2 shape and solidify the midfield.
Frankfurt were not happy to let things stand as they were, with Lindstrom looking to get them back in the match with a left-footed effort. The Tottenham defence gave him a little too much space at the top of the box, but Lloris made another good save. Sow then took a pop from range, but pushed it wide.
By this point, the tempo of the match dropped as Spurs looked comfortable with their lead. There were more changes incoming, with Davinson Sanchez coming in to give Eric Dier a rest, before Ryan Sessegnon got himself a late booking. Hojbjerg & Son then got 5 minutes of well-deserved rest, with Bryan Gil and Lucas Moura entering the fray. It was the Brazilian winger’s first European minutes this season.
Things got a little more interesting though, as a late corner from Mario Gotze found the head of Alidou, who towered above the the Spurs defence to reduce the gap to one and raise the stress levels of all Tottenham fans. But Spurs soon looked to make the match safe as a horrendous giveaway from Jakic allowed Gil to drive into the box, juking back and forth and forcing Smolcic into a poor challenge. The contact was soft, but it was a foul and enough for the referee to award a penalty.
That should have been curtains for Frankfurt, but Harry Kane blazed over the bar from the spot in a rare penalty miss. Spurs had yet another chance to finish things as Kane drove down the left, but his cross was inches from the head of Bryan.
Spurs fans once more held their breath as Frankfurt once more pushed forward for an equaliser deep into injury time. Tottenham flooded their box with defenders, throwing themselves in the way of Frankfurt attackers before goal-scorer Alidou wormed his way free for an attempt outside the box. Hugo Lloris saved comfortably, and that was enough for Tottenham to take all 3 points and go top of their group with a 3-2 win.
- Well, that was entertaining! And scarier than it should have been. We saw some of Spurs’ best football this season at points in this match, but the drop off in intensity after the red card was extremely concerning.
- There was a lot of midfield back-and-forth in the first half of the match, and Spurs’ midfield duo really stepped up, regularly winning the ball back and looking to get forward. Hojbjerg in particular was excellent, regularly playing Tottenham out of tight areas, pressing well, and playing a huge part in Spurs’ third goal.
- Speaking of playing out of tight areas, the shakiness playing out of the back will be an area of concern for Conte. Often the patterns are enough to play around a press, but if your players have an off night it can be a struggle. Dier was clearly culpable for the first Frankfurt goal, but there were another couple of similar occasions that could have led to Frankfurt chances.
- Harry Kane (missed penalty aside - seriously, is that the worst one you’ve seen from him?) and Son were both fantastic tonight. Sonny looked probably the best he has all season.
- It was good to see Lucas back, and that was a neat little cameo from Bryan Gil!
- It was hilarious to see Emerson Royal play police officer again after picking up a dropped card by a referee earlier in the season. This time, he was reminding the referee in strongest possible terms about an earlier booking.
- Despite the late scare, this was an excellent result and Spurs are now in pole position to qualify for the knockout rounds top of their group.