UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP B
WEDNESDAY 18TH SEPTEMBER, 2019
(5.55pm BST – at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus)
OLYMPIACOS 2(1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(2)
Valbuena, 54 (pen)
Kane (pen), 26
Lucas Moura, 30
Referee:- Gianluca Rocchi (ITA)
Assistants:- Filippo Meli (ITA), Ciro Carbone (ITA)
Fourth official:- Daniele Doveri (ITA)
Video Assistant Referee:- Paolo Valeri (ITA)
Assistant Video Assistant Referee:- Maurizio Mariani (ITA)
Olympiacos (4-4-2):- Malherio de Sa; Elabdellaoui (Capt.), Borges Samedo, Meriah, Tsmikas; Guilherme, Bouchalakis, Valbuena (sub Benzia, 69), Masouras (sub Randjelovic, 78); Podence, Guerrero (sub El Arabi, 89)
Subs not used:- Allain; Papadopoulos, Torosidis; Camara
Booked:- Guilherme (foul on Ndombele)
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Sanchez, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Winks, Ndombele (sub Sissoko, 62); Lucas Moura (sub Lamela, 76), Dele (sub Son, 73), Eriksen; Kane
Subs not used:- Gazzaniga; Dier, Walker-Peters; Wanyama
Booked:- Winks (foul on Randjelovic)
Spurs surrender lead yet again
It has become too regular. Spurs have once again lost the lead in a game where they should have retained control. Most recently at The Emirates, we had a two goal lead which was reduced almost on the stroke of half-time. This happened again tonight in Piraeus, Athens. This time last year we had reached the latter stages of our first group game in the San Siro against Inter, but surrendered a one goal lead to two late goals. In Eindhoven we had a 2-1 lead but had to be satisfied with a draw. In the cauldron atmosphere of the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium (note the “Call of Duty” pre-match display), Olympiacos will hopefully also test Bayern Munich and Red Star Belgrade, but it remains to be seen whether Spurs will be satisfied with this pint at the end of the Group phase.
I should point out that this report is compiled from my TV observations. Ray Lo was present and provided the picture at the head of this report, and offered some insights into the atmosphere and the usual inconveniences suffered by the travelling fans. I know of one Spurs fan who had his phone stolen, and another who was mugged and lost his phone, passport and cash. No wonder most away fans were bussed in and out of Piraeus from the Olympic Stadium where Panathinaikos play.
Mauricio Pochettino made five changes to his side, no doubt with the Saturday lunchtime game against Leicester in mind. Full backs Serge Aurier and Danny Rose were left at home. Davinson Sanchez again appeared uncomfortable at right back, and Ben Davies was less than adequate on the other flank. Jan Vertonghen gave away a needless penalty. Dele Alli and Eriksen (especially) were below par. Even the insertion of Sissoko, Lamela and Son had little impact. Pochettino bemoaned the lack of concentration and focus of his players. By and large it was just a poor team performance with too many stray passes and Eriksen perhaps intimidated away from challenging in the face of some quite strong physical play by the home side.
Olympiacos kicked off and dominated the early exchanges. Dele gave away an early free kick which was cleared. Spurs players were viciously whistled by the home crowd every time they had possession. Tackles were strong and referee Gianluca Rocchi let play carry on most of the time. Hugo Lloris was down comfortably to a shot by Podence after 5 minutes. The same player had another effort which was half-blocked and fell easily for Hugo to pick up.
Brazilian midfielder Guilherme took an early booking for a foul on Tanguy Ndombele, who is still finding his feet with Tottenham. Spurs’ first showing in attack was a run by Harry Kane but a ball that was either too long for Eriksen, or one which Eriksen made insufficient effort to reach. The commentary team seemed to think Eriksen could have made more effort here.
Olympiacos were threatening with regularity and Guerrero was next to have a shot, but this too was easy for Lloris. Tsmikas made ground down the left flank and crossed after 17 minutes. The shot by Guerrero beat Lloris to his left, hit the post and after the rebound Guilherme lifted a shot well over the target. Spurs were under pressure and another shot by Podence reached Lloris after a deflection.
Out of the blue, Spurs took the lead. Dele (making his first start of this season) was in a central position and passed to Kane to the right of the area. Harry turned Meriah, who stuck a foot out as Harry advanced into the box, bringing him down. The referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot, but of course VAR had to review the decision, which was confirmed. Harry hit a powerful spot-kick into the roof of the net down the middle as goalkeeper Sa dived to his right.
34 year old former French International Valbuena was a thorn in the side of Spurs throughout. He tried to respond with a right foot shot from the edge of the box which passed over the bar. Spurs took a two-goal lead with a fantastic finish by Lucas Moura. Ben Davies had broken up a play inside the Olympiacos half and ran forward before delivering the ball to the feet of Lucas, who took one touch before hitting a rasping shot from 20 yards beating Sa inside his right post. The two goal lead did not match the run of play, but of course all Spurs had to do was hold on……
Left back Tsmikas hit another cross from which Masouras hit his shot into the ground and over the bar from the centre of the goalmouth when he should have done better. Masouras had another shot, this time a right foot curler, hit from the left of the goal and going wide of the far post. The home crowd had at last been silenced by the two goal deficit and I can tell you that the Spurs contingent was signing loud and proud.
Harry Kane hit a cross/shot from the left of the box which the goalkeeper saved with Dele challenging Semedo and perhaps having half a chance of a penalty, but nothing was given. A good diagonal move from right to left by Winks and Ndombele gave Dele a good chance but he hit his right foot shot over. Podence lifted the home crowd and gave his side a foothold with a goal a minute before the break. Valbuena had put him in with a swift pass to the right of the area and Lloris was beaten by a right foot shot across his goal.
Spurs kicked off the second half and actually dominated for about five minutes with a high press, but little to show for that in the way of chances. Ndombele seemed to have switched sides with Winks. Winks is showing best in the early “spursometer” votes, and he did show more drive and energy than his team-mates. Yes, he made one or two mistakes, but he won most of his challenges and distributed the ball successfully, in my opinion. During this spell, Dele did have the ball in the net but had been flagged offside. The shot followed a move where Lucas Moura had passed inside from the right; Kane had passed to Eriksen, whose cross reached Dele.
That early Spurs pressure came to an end, and disastrously so when the home side were awarded a penalty. Vertonghen had surely needlessly offered too much force to Valbuena just inside the edge of the area in a situation which Spurs could have defended. Valbuena sent Lloris the wrong way and scored to his left.
Spurs had a corner on the left which reached Ndombele outside the area. He hit a left foot shot straight to goalkeeper Sa. The Spurs midfielder was soon replaced by Sissoko. Dele got through on the right hand side of goal but his shot was saved and from the corner Harry Kane headed over. Valbuena was replaced by Benzia. After a foul on Winks, Eriksen took the free kick and Sanchez had the ball towards the left of goal, but got no shot in.
Son replaced the disappointed Dele, but Son had little impact in his time on the field. Podence got ahead of ben Davies and passed inside to Benzia, whose shot was well over the target. Lamela replaced Lucas Moura.
The feeling was that Olympiacos were tiring a little in the heat and they seemed to be looking for the point by defending in their banks of four. A left footed cross by Eriksen from the right side gave Kane a headed chance which won a corner off Semedo. After the corner Lamela picked up the ball outside the box on the left and had a good run towards goal at an angle. He chose to shoot, but the goalkeeper saved. Lamela did not see Kane in space in the middle. Kane was exasperated. Kane hit the bar with a shot following passes by Winks and Son, but he had been offside. There was some good Spurs play late in the game with nice sharp play from the back, which ended in Son over-hitting a cross from the left.
It was Spurs though who came under pressure towards the end of the five minutes of added time with Lloris missing a cross and Davies having to concede a corner.
Perhaps it was the heat that stifled Spurs. Whatever the case, we must hope for a return to the form shown against Crystal Palace in our future games.
Bayern Munich beat Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) 3-0 in the other game so they top the early table:-
P W D L F-A GD Pts
1. Bayern Munich 1 1 0 0 3-0 +3 3
2. Spurs 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1
3. Olympiacos 1 0 1 0 2-2 0 1
4. Crvena Zvezda 1 0 0 1 0-3 -3 0