UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
GROUP E - MATCHDAY FOUR
WEDNESDAY 2ND NOVEMBER, 2016
(7.45PM - at Wembley)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0) BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN 1(0)
Referee:- Jonas Eriksson
Assistants:- Mathias Klasenius, Daniel Warnmark
Additional Assistants:- Stefan Johannesson, Markus Strombergsson
Fourth official:- Daniel Gustavsson
(All officials from Sweden)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Dier, Vertonghen, Davies; Dembele (sub Janssen, 30), Wanyama; Sissoko, Alli, Eriksen (sub Winks, 66); Son (sub Nkoudou, 73)
Subs not used:- Vorm; Rose, Carter-Vickers; Onomah
Bayer Leverkusen (4-1-3-2):- Leno; Henrichs, Toprak (Capt.), Tah, Wendell; Baumgartlinger; Kampl (sub Volland, 85), Aranguiz (sub Havertz, 86), Brandt (sub Calhanoglu, 70); Mehmedi, Hernandez
Subs not used:- Ozcan; Dragovic, Jedvaj; Kiessling
Spurs beat crowd record, but they can’t beat Leverkusen
Spurs beat their recently achieved crowd record with a magnificent figure of 85,512 at Wembley, but they once again failed at their temporary Champions League home, as they could not beat Bayer Leverkusen. Spurs’ hold on a Champions League place becomes very tenuous with a second “home defeat”, and in his post-match comments, manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted they will need to beat Monaco away in three weeks’ time to stand any chance of qualifying. Monaco convincingly won last night against CSKA, and will present tough opposition for Spurs. The Europa League beckons for Spurs, provided they can manage to beat the Russian team in their third game at Wembley next month.
Apart from the 2,000 Leverkusen fans, the massive crowd was sorely disappointed to see the worst Spurs performance seen anywhere this season. Yes, Spurs were missing three key players (Alderweireld, Kane and Lamela), and they lost Dembele to an ankle injury after half an hour, but those who played looked as if they didn’t know each other, or Wembley. Generally the team seemed to lack strength; the ability to pass their opponents; an ability to pass, and dare I say they are looking more and more tired. Questions will be asked soon about the manager’s training methods, and whether or not the players are over-trained.
Then there is the matter of £30 million summer signing Moussa Sissoko, who had a simply appalling game last night, easily losing the ball, missing passes and missing opportunities to collect a pass, and perhaps go for goal. With over 100 votes already in on the Spurs Odyssey post-match survey, Sissoko is bearing the brunt of the fans anger with a pathetic grade of 2.9. That said, it is unfair to lay the blame at the feet of one player, as most dressed in white were culpable. Kyle Walker was one of the best of the outfield players, but he was also prone to an almost costly mistake.
The pre-match atmosphere was wonderful with a fantastic rendition from the crowd of “Glory, Glory Allejuhah”, and phone lights flashing around the stadium as the UEFA Champions League theme filled the air, but ultimately the flatness of Spurs play would have an effect upon the home enthusiasm.
A couple of weeks ago, after a 0-0 draw at Bournemouth ( we now have not win in 6 games), I said being unbeaten was not good enough, and more and more I am convinced that we are not good enough to challenge for the title, for the top four, and certainly not good enough for the Champions League. Pochettino’s project has plenty of work required as yet. Early on the team was struggling to clear its lines, and to even get out of their own half. I know I must sound like a broken record, but it frustrates me so much to see our default mechanism to pass or throw backwards, or sideways. Teams are reading us all too easily now, and they are pressing us in our half. After all, Leverkusen adopted an attacking strategy of Mehmedi next to Hernandez, in front of an attacking three of Kampl, Aranguiz and Brandt.
Spurs response was the weak and ineffective Son up front (replaced by Janssen when Dembele went off), with two of his supporting midfielders (Sissoko and Eriksen) lacking guile, and, dare I say, even the desire at times to challenge for the ball, to take on opponents, and to run the “extra yard”. Sissoko won’t be eligible for Sunday’s game at The Emirates, so played the 90 minutes, but Eriksen was replaced after 66 minutes not so much because he needed to be protected for Sunday, but because he just was not performing. The fact that it was Harry Winks – still a rookie – who was given the creative responsibility does not indicate a strong enough Spurs squad, contrary to public opinion.
After that early struggle, Spurs did manage a couple of attacks, but they came to nought. Alli met a Sissoko cross and tried to tee up Ben Davies, but he lost the ball. Kyle Walker made a good run into dangerous territory, but was ultimately blocked. An Eriksen free kick after 10 minutes was too close and too easy for goalkeeper Leno.
Dembele was too easily forced off the ball after 15 minutes, and this led to a dangerous cross by Hernandez, but Spurs managed to clear and in fact made a break through Sissoko. His cross to the middle was cleared. After a Spurs throw on the right, the ball found its way to Eriksen, who passed to Davies. Davies over-hit his attempted pass. When Janssen replaced Dembele, Son reverted to the left wing, and Eriksen fell back from the midfield three. Eriksen did hit just about the one shot on goal in the first half with a decent crack, but this was parried by Leno and cleared. Hernandez caused worry at the other end three minutes before the break with a shot that took a slight deflection and won a corner.
Spurs managed some pressure just before the break, with the German defence clearing after Janssen’s pass to Eriksen. Sissoko failed to take on a Davies ball, and in added time a Janssen shot was parried with Alli putting the rebound into the net. However, the referee had blown for a foul by Janssen, and the “goal” didn’t count.
An early second half move saw Wanyama pass forward to Alli, who pushed the ball out to Son. After Son’s return pass, Alli seemed to be fouled on the edge of the box, but referee Jonas Eriksson was having none of that. Eriksen hit a shot wide of Leno’s right post as the play progressed, before protesting at the lack of a referee’s whistle for a foul on Alli. Another Eriksen shot from 25 yards was all too easy for the goalkeeper.
Kyle Walker was slow to clear the ball after 58 minutes, but Spurs did break, with Alli feeding Janssen, who tried a shot from an angle on the left, which was outside the post. Walker himself made a surging run down the right channel and hit a shot just wide of the far post.
Lloris was called into action on the hour but his save did not need to be as sensational as the one he made in German from Hernandez, whose attempt was a little weak after Mehmedi’s ball from the left. Sissoko had a shot at the other end, but it was simply pushed wide and never a threat. Then came the decisive goal. Bayer Leverkusen were finding too much space in and around the Spurs area. Aranguiz’s attempt fell perhaps kindly for Kampl, who was left with an easy finish past Lloris. The Leverkusen fans, who had been in good voice in the Wembley Central pubs were in good voice for the rest of the game, and with good reason.
Walker ran onto a Sissoko headed pass, but his cross was held by the keeper. Eriksen had been replaced and now Son was replaced by Nkoudou who tried to force a path down the left side. Spurs won a free kick after 82 minutes and Janssen dummied over the ball leaving it to Eric Dier, whose shot hit the bar. Janssen’s follow-up was saved. Shortly after Ben Davies had a chance, but he pulled his shot wide.
There were five minutes of added time, but the visitors managed the game and the time well to hold onto their lead and a precious three points. Spurs fans had been leaving in droves 10 minutes before the end.
To be honest, I am fearful for our visit to The Emirates on Sunday. Arsenal are definitely the in-form side and they are brimming with confidence.
UEFA Champions League - GROUP E
Pos Team P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Monaco 4 2 2 0 7-3 4 8
2. Bayer L'Kusen 4 1 3 0 4-3 1 6
3. Spurs 4 1 1 2 2-3 -1 4
4. CSKA 4 0 2 2 3-7 -4 2