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Spurs v K.A.A. Gent, 23.02.17

ROUND OF 32 (Second leg)
(at Wembley)
(K.A.A. Gent win 3-2 on aggregate)

Spurs scorers:-
Eriksen, 10
Wanyama, 61

Gent scorers:-
Kane (o.g.), 20
Perbet, 82

Attendance:- 80,465

Referee:- Manuel De Sousa
Assistants:- Alvaro Mesquita & Ricardo Santos
Additional Assistants:- Carlos Xistra & Fabio Versimo
Fourth official:- Nuno Pereira
(All officials from Portugal)

Spurs (3-4-2-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Dier (sub Janssen, 89), Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Walker, Wanyama, Dembele (sub Winks, 75), Davies (sub Son, 58); Eriksen, Alli; Kane

Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Wimmer; Sissoko

Booked:- Vertonghen, Walker (foul on Gershon), Dier (foul on Perbet), Winks (Dissent), Wanyama (unsporting conduct)

Sent off:- Alli, 39 (high tackle on Dejaegere)

Gent (4-3-2-1):- Kalinic; Foket, Gigot, Mitrovic, Gershon; Dejaegere (sub Verstraete, 56), Esiti, Saief; Simon (sub Perbet, 75), Milicevic (Capt.) (sub Matton, 46); Coulibaly (Gent armband taken by Mitrovic)

Subs not used:- Rinne; Kalu, De Smet, Ibrahim

Booked:- Dejaegere (foul on Eriksen), Saief (foul on Walker), Kalinic (time wasting), Verstraete (foul on Walker), Coulibaly (unsporting conduct)

10-man Spurs valiantly try, but ultimately fail

In my eagerness to publish the post-match survey at the start of my journey home from Wembley last night, I mistakenly included two Diers in the team. (This error was quickly rectified and you can vote here whilst the survey remains live - http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07edv3h0inizi2aklv/start) Spurs didn’t need two Eric Diers in the team, but they could have done with two Vertonghens, Walkers, or Wanyamas, but especially a striker who could put the ball in the net. Spurs were a little like me last night; eager to please, but not successful enough in their application. After Dele Alli recklessly got himself sent off after 39 minutes for a high tackle, the remaining 10 men (plus substitutes Son and Winks) tried valiantly, but ultimately failed to succeed. The Wembley hoodoo continues, as we have managed to win only one of our four games here this season. Success against Millwall in the FA Cup quarter-final will bring us back soon , and of course, the National Football stadium will be our temporary home next season. We had better learn to win here fast!

The attendance of 80,465 is a new Europa League record, and that crowd was boosted by the presence of 7,000 gent fans, resplendent in their blue and white colours, although their team has a European strip of all yellow, much as Spurs have their all white strip. The away fans were present in lower and upper tiers, although not in one mass. They made enough noise and of course they were the ones who went home happy.

Mauricio Pochettino went for three at the back – Dier, Alderweireld and Vertonghen – with Kyle Walker and Ben Davies acting as wing backs. Walker had the bigger impact buzzing up and down the line with plenty of crosses and even a few shots. Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouk, who had celebrated his birthday last week when his team won the first leg 1-0, played a 4-3-2-1, mixing his team a little with Kalifa Coulibaly the man up front supported by captain Danijel Mitrovic and Moses Simon.

Spurs massively dominated possession and had 25 shots on goal compared to Gent’s 5, but it was noticeable that at corners that attacking trio was usually found nearer the half-way line than in the penalty area, equipping the visitors for a dangerous counter-attack at any time. Spurs would do well from such a tactic, which used to be common place in English football years ago.

Spurs kicked off and played towards their “home” end – The West Stand. In the early stages Victor Wanyama made a great tackle on Kenneth Saief who threatened to break clear. An early cross by Kyle Walker was agonisingly in front of Harry Kane and goalkeeper Kalinic collected. Spurs got the early goal they and their fans craved when Eriksen ran onto Walker’s long ball down the right channel, and took on the challenge of attacking goal. Eriksen ran into the box and beat the goalkeeper with a right footed shot that beat the keeper very close to his body. The Spurs crowd roared, as Spurs were level on aggregate and had their tails up.

Dele Alli got into the Gent area and wanted a handball but didn’t get the decision, and so often Spurs were disappointed with the officials decisions in all aspects of the game. Walker had a shot himself as he took the ball into the box, but he fired outside the post. Jan Vertonghen carried the ball forward and got deep into the left side of the Gent area, but when he cut the ball back, the defence cleared. The visitors countered quickly, and won a corner, which was fatal for Spurs, as Gent got an away goal which left Spurs needing another two goals to get to the next round. We even scored the goal for them as Mitrovic headed the corner back into the 6 yard box and Harry Kane was the unfortunate whose header beat Lloris .

Spurs were certainly up for the task, from front to back. Toby Alderweireld had a shot blocked following a free kick when Eriksen had been fouled by Dejaegere. Eriksen, Alli and Davies combined on the left with Davies’ cross just in front of Kane, passing safe across the goalmouth. After a Spurs corner on the left and the subsequent cross, both Dele Alli and Victor Wanyama tried desperately to make contact with the ball, but that too passed clear. Another attack followed good play by Dembele, sending Walker forward. His cross was taken on by Kane, but the best we could do was win another corner. Kane returned the compliment soon after with Kyle hitting a good shot well saved by Kalinic for another corner.

Then came what was surely the decisive moment of the game. I am sure Dele was simply keen to win a ball back which he had over-played, but his tackle was high and he was shown red, which of course will keep him out of two European games next season, assuming we qualify. Dejaegere was the victim who needed treatment and who did manage to return to the pitch.

To their credit, the Spurs 10 played as if they were not missing a player, continuing with the three at the back, with the rest bombing forward when they could. Kane had another chance after a Walker ball, but Kalinic saved. Eriksen fed a ball to Vertonghen, getting forward again and trying his luck, but hitting the shot over the target. Eriksen himself had another chance before the break, after Walker’s ball, but Eriksen’s left foot shot was too high.

The Gent captain Milicevic was replaced at half-time by Matton. It took a while for Spurs to get going again, but more chances came along including a Kane shot being blocked after Dembele’s pass. Kane fired wide across the goalmouth after Eriksen had put him in. So many of these chances going astray should at least have been hitting the target.

Son came on for Ben Davies, as Pochettino went for all-out 10-man attack, reverting to a back four, but with Son and Eriksen just behind Kane. Son had an early impact too, getting to the line and crossing for Kane to head over. Another Son cross led to two quick Spurs attempts on goal from close range which were blocked. This extra pressure paid off with Kyle Walker and Eriksen getting the assist as Wanyama smashed home a right foot shot. The 10 men were on the front foot, and Kane sent Eriksen away, who should have got goal-side of the defence but failed and allowed the defence to clear. Spurs had more attempts through Kane, Alderweireld and Vertonghen, but Gent survived.

Spurs’ chances probably should have been ended after 73 minutes following a deep cross from the left which Simon headed into the side netting, when he should have scored. The tiring Dembele was replaced by Harry Winks, but Spurs efforts on the Gent goal faded although they remained the more likely to score and qualify for the Round of 16. Their hopes were ended when Gent countered and Spurs were short at the back. I think it might have been Coulibaly who crossed and Eric Dier could only nudge the ball towards last week’s scorer Jeremy Perbet, who gleefully fired home and out the tie beyond Spurs’ reach. Two goals were required again. Son had a great chance from Kane’s ball, but fired too high, and time indeed ran out for Spurs, with Kane having a shot go wide as the three minutes of added time ticked away.

It will be interesting now, and certainly a challenge, to see if Spurs are up for Sunday’s home Premier League game against a Stoke team who have had two weeks off, whilst Spurs have been busy in Europe and in the FA Cup.

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