After the unexpected postponement of their match against Manchester City over the weekend, Tottenham Hotspur headed into the match fresh and ready to try cement their place at the top of Champions League Group D against Sporting Lisbon in Portugal.
Both Sporting and Tottenham won their first fixtures in the group, with Richarlison leading Spurs to a 2-0 win over Marseille, and Sporting prevailing 0-3 in a rather torrid affair against Eintracht Frankfurt. Conte spoke once more about rotation prematch, but there was only one change on the pitch, with Ben Davies returning to the starting XI. Harvey White made a surprise appearance on the bench, with Pape Mata Sarr dropping off.
Much of the early action took place in Sporting’s half of the pitch, with Spurs engaging a bit more of a high press than is perhaps typical of Conte’s side, but unable to find much penetration into the box. This early pressure did nearly yield rewards with a dangerous turnover near the Sporting box unfortunately only leading to a blocked long-range Bentancur shot.
Sporting, on the other hand, looked to counter, with Marcus Edwards driving forward on one such early opportunity. His layoff to a teammate resulted in a shot across goal which Hugo Lloris narrowly parried away.
There were a couple of half-chances to either side following that as the half settled into a rather dull affair with neither team able to do much with the ball. The best of these saw Perisic put a great cross into the box from the left which Richarlison managed to win, but his header was poorly struck and straight to keeper Adan. Sporting then drove forward with Trincao taking a pop from outside the box.
A long throw found Emerson Royal (of all people) 6 yards out, but he was unable to turn the flick-on home, as Spurs looked to ratchet up the pressure. “The other man” Richarlison then tried to steal Harry Kane away from Son as their budding relationship saw Kane play in the new Spurs number 9 for a couple of great chances only to be flagged for offside on each occasion.
An incredible mazy Edwards run and one-two in the box saw him strike at goal from point-blank range to finish the half, with Lloris making a fantastic save to deny Edwards. Sporting probably went into the break the happier of the 2 sides, with a couple of glimpses at goal and Spurs unable to really get their attack into gear.
Tottenham looked to increase the pressure once more as the second half kicked off. A Kane cross found Emerson Royal far post but his header was once more parried by Adan. Kane then took a free kick quickly, chipping the ball to Royal in the box but his shot again was saved. Richarlison looked to feed Kane on another Tottenham break but it was a familiar story: once more the attack came to nothing.
Bentancur earned himself a booking after scything down Goncalves to stop a Sporting break. Morita then did the same for Sporting, fouling Son. A couple of speculative efforts from either side followed before Perisic flashed a glorious ball across the face of goal, with Harry Kane unable to reach it.
Son made way for Dejan Kulusevski, who could perhaps have considered himself unlucky not to start. He made an instant impact, bursting forward and winning a foul (and yellow card for the opposition) just outside the box. He then looked to pick out Richarlison from the left, whose low header was just wide of the post.
Sporting began to grow into the game late, and Hojbjerg made a cynical foul to prevent a chance after his own poor giveaway, before Pedro Porro cut inside and curled one towards the top corner from outside the box. Hugo Lloris once more made a phenomenal save.
The late Sporting pressure finally took its toll. The corner following the Lloris save was flicked on into the net by Paulinho, with Hugo powerless to stop it. With only 3 minutes of added time, the final nail was then hammered into the coffin: Tottenham refused to make more substitutions, but one of Sporting’s, Arthur, slalomed his way past Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal and drove the ball home to end a miserable night for Spurs. The fulltime whistle blew, and Sporting took the 3 points with a 2-nil result.
- It says a lot about this match that Hugo Lloris was probably the Spurs player of the match.
- Conte is great at a lot of things. But boy, is he BAD at subs. With 5 available, he made a grand total of 1. You could tell Spurs were tiring late and could have used reinforcements, but it appeared (somewhat bizarrely) Conte was happy with a point.
- Harry Kane had a really off night. On nights like this you can tell how dependent Spurs are on his passing, and unfortunately today he was just a turnover machine.
- The attack in general just felt disjointed. It seemed the midfield was able to find the front 3 reasonably easily, but Richarlison, Son, and Kane just did not seem to be able to connect with one another. It didn’t help that neither of the wingbacks had particularly good outings going forward.
- Dejan Kulusevski should have started. Things freed up for Spurs in attack as soon as he came on; unfortunately, they dropped off in other areas of the pitch - so make a damn sub, ANTONIO!
- Did Spurs miss a trick with Marcus Edwards? He was excellent tonight.
- *fart noise*