Hugo Lloris was the star for Tottenham against Lazio in Rome as Spurs held on for a draw which leaves them requiring a point in the final Group match against Panathinaikos in a fortnight at White Hart Lane. Lazio have qualified due to the Greek team’s unexpected win over Maribor. Now, Spurs and Panathinaikos have a chance to progress from the head-to-head game although the Greeks must win whereas Spurs can settle for another draw in this very competitive group.
Lazio 0 Tottenham Hotspur 0
Team: Lloris; Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton; Sandro, Carroll (Dembele); Sigurdsson (Lennon), Dempsey (Defoe), Bale; Adebayor Subs (unused) Cudicini, Dawson, Huddlestone, Livermore
Hugo Lloris retained his place in the team following Tottenham’s defeat at Arsenal and Steven Caulker returned from injury to partner Jan Vertonghen in central defence. With three Premier League matches next week, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe were rested as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey started the game along with Emmanuel Adebayor.
Tottenham appeared to have made the perfect start when after five minutes Carroll played a lovely ball through the Lazio defence after five minutes for Gareth Bale to run onto and take round the goalkeeper to score. Unfortunately, the official incorrectly flagged for off-side, the fourth goal Spurs have had disallowed in the two games against Lazio. With twenty minutes gone, a cross whipped in by Bale from the right had the Lazio goalkeeper scrambling back and relieved to push the ball over the bar for a corner.
After the bright start by Spurs, Lazio gradually took control of the half and looked more threatening as they ran at the Spurs defence. They were, however, restricted to only a few chances but Lloris did well to get his foot to touch the ball wide in a one-on-one situation. He also saved well when touching a long range shot onto the bar and then recovered quickly to prevent any danger from the rebound. As Lazio looked to play the ball behind the Spurs defence Lloris was alert to the danger and came out quickly to claim the ball.
Spurs started the second half better and for fifteen minutes looked to have greater control. Knowing that a win would achieve automatic qualification to the knockout stages, Villas-Boas took the positive step of introducing Lennon and Defoe and changed to a 4 – 4 – 2 formation. Unfortunately, this didn’t have the desired effect as neither saw much of the ball and the last thirty minutes was very much a rearguard action for Spurs with Lloris getting the opportunity to stake a claim to be first choice with a number of crucial saves.
Lazio were frequently caught off-side as they tried to play in behind the Tottenham defence. Moments before the substitutions, Kozak, playing in place of the injured Klose, had the first of four clear opportunities to score but put the ball wide at the near post with Lloris diving in the opposite direction. Lloris continued to take centre stage with another save from Kozak. Mousa Dembele came on for the last fifteen minutes and then Lloris bravely punched clear from a corner as he was bundled against the post by Mauri with ten minutes remaining. From another corner, five minute later, he saved a header, low down with his feet.
It was a case of defending with strength and Tottenham held out thanks to Lloris and the point keeps Spurs second in the group. Brad Friedel congratulated Lloris on his performance on Twitter:
An uninspiring match with lacklustre performances from both sides ended goal-less which in the end suited Lazio as the draw was sufficient for them to progress to the next stage due to the unexpected defeat of Maribor. It also takes Maribor out of the qualification equation and makes Spurs’ final game against Panathinaikos the decider for who goes through with Lazio. Tottenham need a draw but a defeat would see the Greek team qualifying in second place.
From the Tottenham perspective, a draw was satisfactory in what was always going to be a difficult game against Lazio in Rome. Mousa Dembele returned to get some match time and hopefully will be ready to start on Sunday against West Ham while Tom Carroll continued his development with another composed display. Sigurdsson worked hard in midfield both defensively and trying to get forward to support Adebayor.
Tottenham drew with Panathinaikos in Greece when the home side scored a late equaliser but Spurs will be hoping to secure the result necessary to progress. They will, however, be mindful that last season a home defeat to a Greek side effectively brought Tottenham’s Europa League campaign to an end and so will want to avoid that similar situation occurring in two weeks time.