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Spurs v Royal Antwerp, 10.12.20


Vinicius, 57
Lo Celso, 71

Attendance:- 2,000

Referee:- Jesús Gil Manzano
Assistants:- Diego Barbero & Ángel Nevado
Fourth official:- Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez
(All officials from Spain)

Spurs (3-4-3):- Hart; Tanganga, Sanchez, Davies (Capt.); Doherty, Lo Celso, Winks (sub Ndombele, 59), Reguilon (sub Bergwijn, 46); Bale (sub Son, 58), Vinicius (sub Kane, 59), Lucas Moura (sub Sissoko, 68)

Subs not used:- Whiteman; Alderweireld, Dier, White; Dele, Clarke; Scarlett

Booked:- Sanchez (foul on Haroun)

Antwerp (5-4-1):- Beiranvand; Buta, Seck (sub Verstraete, 72), Gelin, Batubinsika, J. Lukaku (sub Juklerod, 59); Benson (sub Miyoshi, 72), Haroun (Capt.), Hongla (sub Boya, 59), Refaelov (sub Ampomah, 46); Benavente

Subs not used:- Chevaughn, Butez; De Laet; Mbokani

Booked:- Seck (foul on Lucas Moura), Ampomah (foul on Sanchez)

Wahey! Spurs finish top of Group J!

Wahey! We're top of Group J! That means seeded status for the Round of 32 draw which takes place on Monday lunchtime. Spurs had 21 shots compared to just 2 for Antwerp. 10 of those were on target, as opposed to nil on the other side.

Jose Mourinho sprang one surprise with his initial team selection. The manager played three at the back and had Doherty on the right and Sergio Reguilon playing as left wing-back. Giovani Lo Celso who was clearly Spurs man of the match, played nominally beside Harry Winks, but usually ahead of him, feeding the front three of Bale, Vinicius and Lucas Moura. Jose made 9 changes to Sunday’s team. Hojbjerg was rested, as openly reported. Dele Alli didn’t get off the bench.

Antwerp set up with five at the back but they played wing-backs too with Buta on the right, offering a threat to the Spurs defence in tandem with Benson. On the left, the Antwerp coach played 26-year-old Jordan Lukaku – younger brother of Romelu – who did not feature in the first game in Antwerp.

Of course there were another eager 2,000 home fans in the stadium, most of whom were housed in the South Stand. Some Premium ticket holders also have access. The game was preceded by an impeccably observed silent tribute for Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi whose death was announced early today.

The early action was a little tentative and there was a pattern in the first half of Spurs being effectively closed down when going forward. Some of the Spurs players were also not succeeding often enough with intended passes. Vinicius was working hard up front but not often coming away with the ball. Centre-back Jeremy Gelin was doing a good job.

Spurs had a free kick out on the right taken by Lo Celso. Tanganga was the somewhat uncertain goalkeeper at the back post and a corner resulted. Lucas Moura took that and Gareth Bale headed wide when the target was surely easier. A shot by Lucas Moura from outside the area was deflected wide by Bale, who was well offside anyway. Vinicius got into the area but was well challenged by Gelin with Antwerp clearing the ball. The same player blocked shots by Bale and Lucas Moura in quick succession.

Tanganga fell badly when he challenged for the ball. He needed treatment to his upper arm/shoulder area, but was able to carry on. Playing on the right of the back three Tanganga had a competent game, whereas the more experienced Davinson Sanchez seemed more unsure of his touch and wasn’t always fastest against front man Benavente either.

After a long Joe Hart clearance the ball reached Vinicius who got into a shooting position inside the area, but fired straight at the keeper. Abdoulaye Seck, a big and powerful Senegalese centre-back, was booked for a foul on Lucas Moura and by my account lucky on two further occasions to escape a second yellow. The Spanish referee Jesús Gil Manzano was clearly of a lenient frame of mind.

Lo Celso had a good chance from inside the area on the right, hitting his shot across the goal, but not strongly enough to beat the defence, who cleared. Benavente got into a similar position at the other end, but his shot was deflected and won a corner. Spurs responded with a good ball by Lo Celso, this time operating from the left. Goalkeeper Beiranvand came just outside his area to clear the ball away from the advancing Vinicius, and when Matt Doherty tried to follow-up he was very quickly closed down by a three-man pack of red-shirted players.

Lo Celso made a good run through the middle and seeing that Vinicius had run into an offside position to his left, Gio moved to his right and hit a good shot with the outside of his left foot which the goalkeeper saved well, diving to his left. Joe Hart had to make a good diving save to hold a dangerous cross by Buta.

Lucas Moura got inside the Antwerp area and slipped a pass forward to Bale who reached the bye-line outside the post. Gareth tried to cut the ball back but the goalie and his defence cleared. Lucas picked up a clearing ball by Sanchez, before moving forward and passing sharply to Vinicius who was on the left side of the area. His shot was closed down by the advancing keeper, who clearly had a very good game for his team. In added time I felt that Reguilon was clearly shoved in the back by that man Seck, but the referee did not even award a foul, let alone show a deserved second yellow.

At half-time Jose replaced Reguilon with Bergwijn. Eventually it seemed that Spurs settled into a back four, but Doherty was often in an advanced position. Antwerp’s goalscorer in the first game was replaced by Ampomah.

The referee did award a free kick against Seck for his foul on Lucas Moura, and again the referee let him off a second yellow. Jose and his assistant Joao Sacramento was not happy, and I think Joao was shown a yellow card. Jose also berated the fourth official over time-wasting by the visitors who became more and more focused upon holding onto a draw and therefore top place in the group.

That foul took place a good 30 yards out and the deadlock was broken when Bale hit a dipping free kick which Beiranvand did well to save inside his left post but the ball rebounded off the post and Vinicius snapped up the chance to slam the ball home.

Jose had already made his mind up though that he was going for the win and replaced the goal-maker, and scorer with Son and Kane respectively, whilst the seemingly disappointed Harry Winks was replaced by Ndombele. That’s not to say Winks had played at all badly, and in all honestly, in the more defensive position Tanguy made a couple of errors, one of which might have been costly on another day. The media picked up on perceived disappointment by Winks who went straight down the tunnel, but Jose sought to dismiss this after the game.

After 66 minutes, Bergwijn passed inside from the left to Bale, whose right foot shot was held by the goalkeeper. Harry Kane fed a ball to Son, to his left and Sonny won a corner with his right-footed shot. Now Lucas Moura was replaced by Sissoko and Jose had used all five of his subs with a quarter of the game to be played.

Kane headed wide at the back post from a Lo Celso corner. Beiranvand saved again, this time from Bergwijn who hit a shot from 20 yards. The match-sealing goal came in the 71st minute. Sissoko had made a good pick-up in the middle and sent the ball to Harry Kane, who might have taken the ball on for a shot himself, but passed to Lo Celso who was to his right in space. Gio advanced into the area and scored with his shot across the keeper in front of the happy South Stand occupants.

The priority became to manage the game now, although Sanchez had a good opportunity but headed wide from a Son free kick. A strong run by Lo Celso, fighting off two strong challenges to win a corner won great applause from the Spurs fans. One of those Ndombele errors came at the end of a passing phase where Spurs were mostly in their own half. Lo Celso redeemed the situation with strength and determination from his own bye-line near the right corner flag, successfully bringing the ball forward away from danger. Harry Kane had a good chance inside the Antwerp area two minutes from normal time. It looked as if he was working on a left foot shot, but when he turned to try with the right, he fell to the ground.

So, as I hope in my match preview, Spurs are top of two leagues this week! Let’s hope that situation can be maintained despite two difficult away games to come, firstly at Selhurst Park, before we travel to Anfield. In the old days, I would have said “See you there!”, but times are different. It is 9 months to the day since I last saw Spurs live in Leipzig on March 10th. Since then Spurs have played 30 games, 9 of them already in Europe this season. As a Tier 3 resident, I have to settle for my sofa view.

Europa League Group J

               P  W  D  L   F-A   GD   Pts

 1. Spurs      6  4  1  1  15-5   10   13  
 2. Antwerp    6  4  0  2   8-5    3   12
 3. LASK       6  3  1  2  11-12  -1   10 
 4. Ludogorets 6  0  0  6   7-19 -12    0  

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