Spurs Dig In: Late Strike Preserves Tottenham’s EuroHopes
Indecisive. Inconsistent. FLAT! Tottenham Hotspur did not look like a team prepared to face a spirited Olympique Lyon side on a frigid night in France. However, fate does not always smile upon the footballing side that demonstrates the most quality. Lyon learned this timeless tenet of football in the cruelest of fashions.
The second leg of this closely contested Europa League matchup was played on 21 February 2013 with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line. Spurs travelled to Lyon’s Stade de Gerland holding the advantage of a 2-1 aggregate. Lyon quickly knocked Spurs to the mat with an opportunistic goal by Maxime Gonalons in the seventeenth minute of play. With the away goal advantage and a home crowd urging them on, Lyon looked to be in the driver’s seat.
Lyon played with flash and purpose, determined to make a statement that a Ligue 1 side could indeed handle a traditional and prestige-laden Premiership club. Gareth Bale, hailed by many pundits last week as one of the most in-form footballers in the world, was largely absent from the proceedings. When Spurs finally managed to maintain some sort of possession, careless decision-making in the final third led to some brutal Lyon counterattacks. At one point, Spurs keeper Brad Friedel left his box and mistimed a clearance. Lyon was sorely unlucky to remain only one goal up.
Aaron Lennon, usually an effective midfield man for Spurs, could not seem to connect with Emmanuel Adebayor. With Jermaine Defoe out, Adebayor played as a lone striker. While Adebayor managed to make some promising runs, he was largely innefective. In one promising moment, Adebayor sent a curling cross into the pathway of the much heralded Bale, who fired a volley one-time but missed by three feet to the lower left. The center of the pitch was largely bossed by Lyon as Spurs midfielders Scott Parker and Lewis Holtby failed to find any real rhythm.
Clint Dempsey came on late as a substitute to replace Aaron Lennon. Dempsey almost found the net within minutes of entering the pitch when he saw a header float just over the bar. Another opportunity saw Dempsey’s close range effort go wide.
The noise level of the Stade de Gerland was deafening for most of the match, reaching a crescendo of nervous anticipation in injury time. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, arrived the blast which sent Spurs fans into a state of utter delirium. Mousa Dembele decided to take matters into his own hands when, in injury time, he unleashed a long distance shot past the outstretched arms of Lyon keeper Remy Vercoutre.
Without much quality to show, Spurs found a way to awaken Lazarus in this European cup tie. Football is not always fair, but the man who proclaims that good fortune is unnecessary never really won any European silverware.
Tottenham Hotspur will next take on Inter Milan in the Round of 16. Milan is looking the stronger side as of late, but you would be hard pressed to bet against the Spurs and Lady Luck.