Another Thursday night, another Europa League fixture, another Spurs performance that ticks all the boxes, the ones you want and the ones you don’t as they beat Asteras Tripolis.
Asteras Tripolis caused Spurs trouble in the previous game in the Europa League, could have, should have scored a number of goals before Harry Kane palmed a late consolation into his own net, this coming after he’d grabbed a hat-trick and Lamela had rabona’d a stunner in a brace.
They have the record of a number of Greek clubs in Europe with an unbeaten home record, tough at home, but don’t travel well.
It came as a surprise then that they just dropped off Spurs from the very start, I suppose hoping to play a similar game to the reverse fixture and catch out the visitors with plenty up the park that are bypassed by one long ball over the top. It didn’t work.
Spurs played a lot of keep ball with no end product or real cutting edge, usually giving the ball away just around the box with lazy flicks in crammed areas, or tripping over and gifting up possession. It was just too deep into the Greeks half of the field for them to be really caught out on the counter.
With no pressure on the ball Spurs were finding just easy enough to be completely lazy about it.
Now one box that was clicked was getting something useful out of Andros Townsend. His usual routine of cut inside and blast over the bar, or wide of the post, was making him an easy sell come January. If only he’d do what he did in that EL tie last season that got him into the first team squad.
Well he started just after the half hour when, from the left, he ran into the box and committed a defender – they normally have to just run alongside him until he coughs up the ball – who brought him down and the ref pointed to the spot. Though I don’t suppose many were pleased to see Townsend place the ball to take the pen.
The fact he placed the spot kick perfectly came as a shock.
As did the fact that not long after, again from the left, he stood up the perfect ball for Harry Kane to head in the second. This is what got Townsend into the side, creating and assisting for others, not glory chasing pot shots. This is what could keep him at the club, with the fans happy, not glory chasing inept pot shots.
Play like that and everyone is happy.
What followed after the break was classic Spurs. Not long ago it was bog standard that for the first 10 to fifteen minutes after the break they weren’t at the races at all, it looked like it had returned in the Newcastle match with that 7 second goal. It was back here.
In the first few minutes of the second half Tripolis could not only have got one back, they could have had the equaliser then the winner and then the banker. In the space of a few short minutes it could have been four or five two for the home side as Spurs switched off and hardly ever switched on again.
The Greek boss must have been wondering how things would have gone if they’d played this way in the first 45. Spurs pressed and harried made things very easy for the hosts. The only thing they found hard was finishing. As at White Hart Lane it let them down, badly.
Blocks, saves, hit woodwork, if they could find the target it would have been a walk over.
In the end Spurs were uncharacteristically lucky in that when a goal finally came it was in the final minute of normal time. Though it was lucky on the home sides behalf. A coming together between the striker and Fazio saw one fall over and as we know how it works with referees if one player goes over it’s a foul and with that he pointed to the spot and then to add insult he showed Fazio the second red card of his Spurs career.
Could have lost both games to Asteras, home and away, but came away with 6 points, that isn’t standard Spurs but they’re gonna have to do a lot better if they really want a trophy.