UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE
ROUND OF 32 (1st leg)
THURSDAY 18th FEBRUARY, 2016
ACF FIORENTINA 1(0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(1)
Chadli (pen), 37
Referee:- Felix Zwayer
Assistants:- Thorsten Schiffner & Marco Achmuller
Additional assistants:- Tobias Stieler & Robert Hartmann
Fourth official:- Mark Borsch (All officials from Germany)
Fiorentina (4-4-1-1):- Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Rodriguez (Capt.), Astori, Alonso; Blaszczykowski (sub Kalinic, 62), Costa (sub Vecinio, 67), Valero, Bernadeschi; Ilicic (sub Badelj, 61); Zarata
Subs not used:- Sepe; Pasqual, Fernandez, Babacar
Booked:- Astori (foul on Alli)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Vorm; Trippier, Alderweireld, Wimmer, Davies; Mason (Capt.), Carroll (sub Dembele, 46); Son (sub Kane, 68), Eriksen, Alli; Chadli (sub Dier, 79)
Subs not used:- McGee; Walker, Rose; Onomah
Booked:- Alli (foul on Tomovic), Davies (foul on Blaszczykowski), Dembele (foul on Badelj), Kane (unsporting conduct)
Another first for Spurs.
Spurs became the first English team to score in the Fiorentina stadium, and improved upon their result in the same fixture last year by bringing back a draw, and a precious away goal.
Mauricio Pochettino made a number of changes, but kept his defence strong (as I anticipated). Ryan Mason got his first start of the year, and was given the captain's armband for the first time as a senior player. Lloris was injured, of course, but arguably Walker, Rose, Dier, Dembele, Kane and also the absent Erik Lamela were rested. Dembele, Kane and Dier all made appearances off the bench in the second half.
It had been a fine day in Florence, but it was getting chilly in the evening, although not as cold as in England. I wish I could tell you that the quality of the Fiorentina stadium and the hospitality of the local police matched the culture in this beautiful city, but sadly it does not. Middle-aged women, ladies and children (no doubt on half-term treats) had to endure the draconian security measures and the appalling toilet facilities that exist here.
A good contingent of away fans nonetheless had re-visited the scene of a 2-0 defeat last year, whilst the home fans did not turn up in droves. Their "home" end did not fill up until midway through the first half.
As for the football, it rarely lifted the spirits. Spurs defended well, certainly in the first half, and allowed the home side few shots during that period. We dominated possession in the first half, but Fiorentina came back well and fought hard in the second period. They seemed to play an attacking style with Ililic playing just off former West Ham man Mauro Zarate.
Indeed Zarate looked the biggest threat for the home side, whilst Dele Alli brought strength, determination and skills to the game. Alli made good runs here, a delicate flick to Davies there, but also was regarded as quite lucky to only see yellow for a lunge on Tomovic. There could be some feistiness next week at The Lane!
A lovely ball to the advancing Kieran Trippier resulted in a cross which was cut out, with Chadli offside anyway. Carroll fed a good ball to Alli, who tried to set up Son, but the Spurs man could not retain the ball with three defenders around him. Son had another chance soon after, but could not get a shot in.
Eriksen hit a good shot from 25 yards which keeper Tatarusanu was happy to push out for a corner. Fiorentina and Zarata had their closest chance yet after 31 minutes, with the ball from the right confusing the Spurs defence and goalkeeper. Zarate fired wide, and put his hands to his head in despair.
Five minutes later, Spurs took the lead, and again it was after the award of a penalty. This time, Ben Davies was toppled as he entered the area, and Nacer Chadli took on the task of conversion which he did simply with a shot just inside the goalkeeper's right post. Tatarusanu had dived the other way anyway.
Zarate had another chance just before half-time after a ball by the simply spelt Blaszczykowski!
Tom Carroll was replaced at half-time by Mousa Dembele. Spurs won an early free kick when Chadli was fouled out on the right. Eriksen took the free kick and Son fired home, but the offside flag was already being waved.
As the second half progressed, Florence gained more and more ground, if not direct chances. Like Anderlecht in the group stages of this competition, "La Viola" sought to expose the space left on their flanks by Spurs' advancing full-backs. Zarate had a shot blocked and deflected out for a corner, after Alonso's cross.
Chadli made a good run into the box, hitting a shot which brought a save from the keeper, and Son fired just over from Eriksen's pass.
Fiorentina levelled after Bernardeschi was afford too much space in the middle after Blaszczykowski crossed from the right. Bernardeschi's shot took a quite wicked deflection off Ryan Mason and looped into the top of the net with Vorm beaten.
Former Blackburn striker Nikola Kalinic was one of the subs used by Paulo Sousa, desperate to gain some home advantage in this round of 32 tie. It was another sub, Vecino, who hit a decent 25 yard effort, which Vorm saved well.
Harry Kane had replaced Son, and got just inside the left of the area, but hit a fairly tame shot at the goalkeeper. Subsequently, Kane hit a good ball to Trippier on the right, who cut the ball back to Dier. Eric's shot was deflected and won a corner. Spurs' best chance of a winner came after another good ball to Trippier, this time by Eriksen. Trippier crossed and Dele Alli tried an overhead shot, which passed over the bar.
As the game drew to a close, Vorm was down well to save from Zarate, conceding a corner. Vorm had to make another save from Zarate in added time.
On a night when Man Utd lost away in Denmark to FC Midtjylland and Liverpool could only manage a goal-less draw in Germany, this was an excellent result for Spurs against a quality Italian side. The away goal is a bonus, and Spurs are surely well placed to go through next Thursday.
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