UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
GROUP E – MATCHDAY ONE
WEDNESDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER, 2016
(at Wembley Stadium)
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1) AS MONACO FC 2(2)
Attendance:- 85,011 (a new Spurs and English club record)
Referee:-Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
Assistants:- Gianluca Cariolato (ITA) & Filippo Meli (ITA)
Additional assistants:- Daniele Doveri (ITA) & Davide Massa (ITA)
Fourth official:- Mauro Tonolini (ITA)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier (sub Sissoko, 81), Alli; Lamela (sub Janssen, 71), Eriksen, Son (sub Dembele, 46); Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Trippier, Carter-Vickers; Wanyama
Booked:- Kane (foul on Fabinho)
Monaco (4-2-3-1):- Subasic; Raggi, Glik, Jemerson, Sidibe; Fabinho, Bakayoko; Dirar (sub Lemar, 5), Bernardo Silva, Moutinho; Falcao (Capt.) (sub Germain, 81)
(Armband to Germain)
Subs not used:- De Sanctis; Diallo, Toure; Traore; Jean
Booked:- Glik (foul on Alli), Fabinho (unsporting conduct)
Spurs exposed on big stage
It was a magnificent occasion at Wembley Stadium where Spurs broke not only their club record home attendance, but also the English club record, beating Manchester City’s 84,467 achieved in an FA Cup game against Stoke in 1934. The Spurs record, of 75,038 had also been achieved in an FA Cup game, and was also made in the 1930s. To see Wembley Stadium and its environs decked out in Spurs livery; to see the stadium filled with Spurs white shirts; to see our players walk proudly out onto the National Stadium pitch to the rousing sound of the Champions League anthem, and to hear the massive roar of approval from the Spurs crowd was a marvellous. We were all history-makers tonight.
Unfortunately, Spurs did not quite live up to their billing as favourites in front of such a massive and partisan crowd. Monaco, supported by a pocket of perhaps 200-300 supporters in the East Stand, were not awe-struck, but inspired to take advantage of the spaces that were not covered by the Spurs defence on the vast pitch. Spurs dominated possession in each half, and did play some bright football, but too often they failed at the last hurdle, with Harry Kane hesitant in front of goal. Spurs were often tentative, but they did commit their full-backs, as always, and Monaco were one of those teams who seized opportunities to break at speed, and more directly than the home side.
Mauricio Pochettino retained Son in the team after his brace against Stoke on Saturday. Wanyama was left on the bench, and Dele Alli fell back beside Dier. I felt Spurs’ best period of play came in the second half when Dembele came on for Son, taking Alli’s position, and became Alli’s feed. The Monaco team not only included Radamel Falcao, but was captained by the man who failed to impress during his loan spells in the Premier League. Their defence was bolstered by the presence of new signing Kamil Glik, and their attack was well supported by the pacy Djibril Sidibe – also a summer signing. Sidibe was as dangerous down the Monaco left as was Walker down the same flank in the opposite direction. They kept each other busy. This was a much more resilient and threatening outfit than that which had been well beaten by Spurs in the Europa League last December.
It was Walker who won an early corner with a typical run down the right, and not long after that Monaco suffered a set-back as Dirar had to be replaced by Thomas Lemar. Ultimately, this would not be good news for Spurs. Kane made good headway down the inside right channel in the early stages, and after one such run, his cross passed in front of Eriksen but was met by Son, whose shot beat the goalkeeper, but was cleared in front of goal by Raggi. After 14 minutes, Kane got the better of Jemerson after Alderweireld’s probing ball down the right. Harry got towards the bye-line and crossed. Lamela couldn’t use his cross, but it did reach Dele Alli, whose half-strength shot was cleared. Within a minute Spurs were behind after Lamela lost the ball in his own half and Bernardo Silva was given a run into the box. Silva scored with a good left footed shot across the right of Lloris.
The massive Spurs crowd tried to egg on their team. Lamela had a shot saved by Subasic . After a Spurs corner Ben Davies failed outside the Monaco area, and the visitors made a threatening break against an over-committed Spurs team. After 21 minutes, Son tried to tee up Eriksen for a shot, but the Spurs man was closely marked and could not find a shot out of the situation. Alli made a forward run and fed the ball to Harry Kane, but he too had the ball taken off his feet. Things got worse for Spurs in the 31st minute after a cross from the left was met by a bunch of heads in the Spurs area. The ball fell for Lemar who fired a rocket of a shot into the roof of the net.
Spurs desperately needed a goal back before half-time, but it took a while coming. Harry Kane got the first yellow card of the night for a foul on Fabinho. From the Monaco free kick the Spurs defence were not comfortable for the header from Glik. After 36 minutes Falcao made a run into the Spurs area after a mix-up between Dele Alli and Eric Dier . Toby Alderweireld was strong in defence and took the ball off the Monaco captain with masterful play. Alderweireld was the Spurs hero just before half-time powerfully heading home Lamela’s corner taken from the right. Spurs managed one more chance in the three minutes of added time. Again, it was Alderweireld inspiring the attack with his ball to Walker. Walker passed back to Lamela, who crossed from the inside right, but the ball went just in front of the advancing Dele Alli.
Son made way for Dembele at the start of the second half, and Spurs were even more dominant in possession, without working the Monaco keeper hard enough. Dele Alli combined with Eriksen on the left, but Eriksen’s cross was cleared. Alli had a great shot after receiving the ball from Lamela on his right. Dele’s shot was hit from a full 25 yards, but pushed over by Subasic. Glik was shown Monaco’s first yellow for a foul on Alli, who was now far more threatening in his advanced central position. Eriksen’s free kick was blocked. Another Alderweireld ball down the right put three defenders out of the equation as Harry Kane was given a chance but failed to manage a shot before the ball was cleared off his feet. Fabinho saw yellow for his part in a melee whilst we were waiting for a corner to be taken. I think it was Alli who had gone to the ground, but of course the referee could not give a penalty because the ball was not in play.
Spurs had a series of corners around the one hour mark, but despite the pressure failed to threaten goal. Erik Lamela was replaced by Janssen, and Harry Kane fell back. This put Dele Alli out to the left of midfield, and I felt some of his effect was diminished as he had combined well with Dembele. Dembele was cheered in rousing fashion on several occasions as he swept up Monaco forward moves, before promoting decent Spurs moves. After 74 minutes, Janssen fielded Davies’ ball and fed it to Kane who got around the defence on the left. Kane should have got a shot in, but took too much time and was swamped by three defenders. A cross by Kyle Walker was met by Alli’s shot, but Subasic held the effort.
Janssen gave Kane another chance after chasing a long ball. Kane’s shot was straight at the keeper, and again he should have been more clinical. That was the story of spurs’ night really.
Now Dier was replaced by Sissoko. However, by now Monaco were breaking forward in numbers on occasions and giving the Spurs defence something to worry about. Spurs did have half a chance when Janssen sent a ball for Sissoko to chase, but the keeper was always going to be first to the ball. Sissoko made a long cross over the defence to Alli on the left, but he pushed the shot wide. In added time, Jan Vertonghen had a header go wide from Eriksen’s corner.
Spurs fans had been drifting out for a while, seeking to beat the rush away from a crowded Wembley. Suddenly I could empathise with Man Utd fans who regularly leave Old Trafford before the end of their games. I left just before the final whistle, but had to queue for the best part of an hour to reach Wembley Park tube station. It could, and should have been so much better for Spurs, who now face a big challenge to qualify from their group. For now, we must address Sunday’s Premier League match against Sunderland, against whom we recorded that previous home crowd record.
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