UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
ROUND OF 32 (First leg)
THURSDAY 16th FEBRUARY, 2017
K.A.A. GENT 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0)
Referee:- Benoit Bastien
Assistants:- Frederic Haquette & Hicham Zakrani
Additional assistants:- Benoit Millot & Jerome Miguelgorry
Fourth official:- Julien Pacelli
(All officials from France)
Gent (3-4-2-1):- Kalinic; Gigot, Mitrovic, Asare (Capt.) (sub Gershon, 80); Foket, Dejaegere, Anderson Esiti, Saief; Simon (sub Kalu, 74), Milicevic; Perbet (sub Coulibaly, 75)
Subs not used:- Rinne; De Smet, Verstraete, Cardoso Neto
Spurs (4-1-4-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Wanyama; Sissoko (sub Nkoudou, 71), Dembele (sub Son, 68), Winks (sub Eriksen, 80); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer; Onomah
Booked:- Walker (foul on Saief), Alli (Dissent)
Spurs fire another blank.
Spurs' form is becoming a serious concern. Here they lost to a middle of the road Belgian side, whilst failing to score from open play for the fourth consecutive game. In those last four matches they have managed just one goal (against Middlesbrough), and that came from the penalty spot.
Mauricio Pochettino fielded a strong team, as had been promised, but that team truly failed to impress in the Ghelamco Stadium, which is well fitted, and which holds 20,000 people. Most of those people went home happy, and also sang "We're going to Wembley" in their joy over taking the lead against a much-fancied English team.
Of course, the tie is not over, but we know how poorly Spurs have played in their European home stadium. On current form, you begin to wonder where the next goal is coming from.
The only obvious absentee for Spurs (apart from the injured Vertonghen, Rose and Lamela) was playmaker Christian Eriksen. Pochettino played a four man midfield in front of Wanyama, and surely the playmaker task was that of Mousa Dembele, given a more advanced role. Dembele generally preferred to attempt to move the ball sideways rather than in a penetrating fashion. However, that is also the style of this Spurs team. No-one impressed for Spurs again tonight, and the early indications are that Lloris will be voted our best player, mainly for one second half save when he pushed a shot against the post, preventing the score going to 2-0.
It was Gent who played three at the back with a four-man midfield using Foket and Saief as wing-backs. Kyle Walker had trouble against Saief, and was getting little defensive support from Moussa Sissoko on that side. On the other flank, Ben Davies often seemed to be drawn towards the centre, and space was offered on his side too. I understand that Pochettino switched to three at the back in the second half, which I did not notice. However, it does explain the space in what should have been Davies' territory.
The first real chance of the game came after 11 minutes. Harry Winks had brought the ball forward, and Dembele passed inside to Dele Alli from the left side. Dele hit a shot from some distance which passed just outside goalkeeper Kalinic's right post. Kalinic did not look convincing in goal, but Spurs failed to test him enough, in my view.
Harry Kane had a shot held after a ball from Dembele. On this occasion Eric Dier had broken up a Gent attack from the back.
The home side (playing in an all yellow strip, rather than their traditional colours) won the first corner of the game after 18 minutes. This had been won by Saief against Walker. From the corner Gigot hit a shot which passed well wide of the goal. Spurs were playing in their all-White European strip.
Foket found space offered to him on the right and crossed, but Dejaegere fired over. Kalinic fumbled a Spurs cross from the left, but no-one was there to sweep up. Alli had another shot go over the target after a Davies cross and a headed pass by Sissoko. Alli had another shot after a Dembele pass, but this was held by the goalkeeper.
Spurs were at least getting on the front foot towards the end of the first half, and Dembele had a shot held after Winks' pass.
Early in the second half, Dele went down in the box, but got no support from the referee. Dembele had a shot on goal which was not held cleanly by the keeper. Another Dembele effort passed wide, after Winks' cross.
Kyle Walker got the first booking of the game for one of his challenges in his ongoing battle with Saief. It was not long after that when Gent took the lead. Mlicevic pierced the Spurs defence and cut the ball back for Perbet, who beat Lloris on his left side with a well-placed shot. The home fans were in raptures. They really admire and respect Spurs, and 7,000 of them will be going to Wembley next week.
Harry Kane was fouled as he ran from left to right outside the Gent penalty area. In the absence of Eriksen, it was Eric Dier who took the free kick, but he pushed it wide of the target.
Pochettino started to introduce substitutes with Son and Nkoudou replacing Dembele and Sissoko respectively, but they had no effect. It was man of the match Milicevc who forced that save by Lloris where the ball was pushed against the left post and rebounded clear. Two goals might have been too much for Spurs to contemplate next week at Wembley. One goal might be enough for Gent against a team that is failing to fire at the moment, and that is looking capable of losing any game, including the next one coming up, in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Troubling news after the game came with the information that Harry Kane had suffered a second half knock. Both he and Jan Vertonghen will have late fitness tests before Sunday's Fulham game. I would personally prefer Jan to be saved for Wembley next Thursday.
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