Tottenham started the season with a 1 – 1 draw against Swindon Town at The County Ground. Bale gave Spurs a first half lead against the side who finished in a play-off position in League One last season.The team selected for the first half was:
Team: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Stewart, Naughton; Bentaleb, Huddlestone, Sigurdsson; Bale, Ceballos, Defoe
Subs: Friedel, Archer, Smith, Caulker, Vertonghen, Rose, Fryers, Dombaxe, Parker, Carroll, Townsend, Lennon, Obika
The opening preseason matches provide an opportunity for all the players to build up their fitness having returned to pre-season training just over a week ago. As always some of the younger players were given an opportunity alongside the experienced professionals with Kevin Stewart playing in central defence beside Michael Dawson. In a 4 – 3 – 3 formation Tom Huddlestone played deeper with Nebil Bentaleb who impressed for the Under-21 team last season in the centre with Gylfi Sigurdsson. Cristian Ceballos started on the left of the front three with Gareth Bale to the right and Jermain Defoe in the centre. All three of the younger players were regulars with the Under-21 team last year and Stewart spent the final month of the season on loan with Crewe Alexandra. Ceballos was signed from Barcelona two years ago while Bentaleb is 18 years of age and has played for the French Under-19 team.
The Swindon team contained four of their five players with Tottenham connections. All three players who are on loan – Grant Hall, Alex Pritchard and Massimo Luongo started the game as did full-back Nathan Byrne who was transferred to Swindon. Jack Barthram was on the bench.
Early Tottenham pressure required the Swindon goalkeeper to save from Bale and almost immediately Defoe saw an effort touched onto the bar after Dawson got to Huddlestone’s corner. Then when played in by Kyle Naughton, Defoe shot over.
After twelve minutes a shot by Bentaleb from the edge of the box was gathered by the goalkeeper. Gareth Bale who scored Spurs’ last goal of season 2012-13 started the new season with their first goal after 15 minutes from the edge of the area having been played in by Sigurdsson. A couple of minutes later, Sigurdsson flicked on Dawson’s pass to Defoe whose shot from 20 yards was saved by the goalkeeper. A Huddlestone free-kick was flicked on by Sigurdsson but the goalkeeper touched it out for a corner.
Pritchard looked lively for Swindon, taking the ball and running at defenders while Luongo played deep in central midfield.
After half an hour a misplaced kick by Hugo Lloris presented the home side with a chance but they were unable to take advantage. A break by Thompson required Lloris to save at full stretch with his foot. As the half drew to a close Swindon created more danger as they broke with pace.
Tottenham had the major share of first half possession but Swindon worked hard to deny Spurs and then looked to create some dangerous situations. In the final minutes Luongo dispossessed Spurs in his own half and when the ball was played forward it reached Pritchard but his shot curled wide.
Half-time: Swindon 0 Tottenham 1
Team: Friedel, Smith, Caulker, Vertonghen, Rose (Fryers); Parker, Carroll, Sigurdsson; Townsend, Lennon, Obika
With only Sigurdsson re-appearing after it half-time it was he who had a shot curl wide in the opening moments. Danny Rose showed his pace on the left but there was no-one up for his cross. Swindon showed greater threat as a free-kick from Pritchard went wide and then Brad Friedel was called upon to save Luongo’s shot from 30 yards. On the hour, Laste Dombaxe replaced Sigurdsson. Andros Townsend was lively on the left but Spurs were not as dangerous as they had been before the interval.
With less than fifteen minutes to play, Tom Carroll gave the ball away and when Williams shot, it took a deflection off Steven Caulker and looped over Friedel. Stunned, Spurs almost replied within five minutes when Carroll played Dombaxe in but having gone past the keeper, the angle was too tight with his shot finding the side netting. In the final minutes Jan Vertonghen and Townsend had shots over but it ended all square.
Full-time: Swindon 1 Tottenham 1
A disappointing end to the game which had seen Spurs start brightly but its main purpose was to build up fitness for all the players. With more players returning to preseason, that will be the same objective for Friday’s match against Colchester United.