Tottenham Win Big, Advance to Europa League Group Stage

Tottenham Hotspur beat Maccabi Haifa to officially qualifying for the Group Stage

In the previous two matches in qualifying for Europa League, Tottenham Hotspur had left things late, but Thursday evening against Maccabi Haifa Spurs scored early and often against the overmatched visitors. Tottenham took 80 minutes to score in their first European qualifier and then despite an early goal, did not have the winner until 70 minutes in the third round of qualifying.

Thursday in London, a Ben Davies cross to Harry Kane had Tottenham on the board in less than 100 seconds of the match and despite Maccabi striking back within five minutes Spurs had four by the half and the game in hand. So how did things transpire for Tottenham in their final qualifier for Europa League?

First Half – Spurs Score Early and Late

Tottenham were quickly on the board in convincing fashion. After a false start from the official Tottenham were attacking from the kickoff forward. A big piece of that attack was the fluidity that Steven Bergwijn and Harry Kane displayed playing together near the front of the attack. At times Bergwijn was leading the line with Kane on the wing and other times Kane was leading the line as normal.

Bergwijn’s ability to provide some hold-up play continues to grow as he combined with Matt Doherty to nearly get Spurs in on goal within the first minute of the match. As the ball recycled to the other side of the field again Bergwijn was involved. Kane found Steven who dribbled once and then put a ball out wide to Ben Davies in some space.

Instead of attacking on his own or trying the cross from a rough angle, Davies played a quick one-touch pass back to Bergwijn and then sprinted to get behind the defender. Two touches later from Bergwijn and the ball was right back in front of Davies with a clear path across the mouth of the goal. Davies hit a solid first-time cross that Harry Kane snuck between defenders and struck first time with the side of his foot into the back of net, 1-0 Spurs.

While Tottenham continued to attack following the goal, so too did Maccabi Haifa who managed a couple of screamers towards Joe Hart in the Tottenham net. The first effort at 4 minutes flew just wide right of the goal. Following that scare, Giovani Lo Celso gets in on the left following some hustle after the ball only to go side netting. Then Lucas Moura and Steven Bergwijn took turns stinging the palms of Maccabi’s American goalkeeper Joshua Cohen.

Having taken a distance effort earlier, Maccabi tried again, with Abu Fani blasting just wide on a curler. Hart was fully extended for the effort, but it was just past his fingers, just as it was past the post. Following some back and forth play and some scrambling from the Tottenham defense, an attempted cross-field pass from Davinson Sanchez to Ben Davies was cut out just inside midfield. Emboldened by his teammate’s efforts, Tjaronn Chery let fly from close to 25 yards out with his left foot.

This time there was no denying Maccabi Haifa as the ball flew past the tips of Hart and into the top left corner. So tight was the shot it looked like it may have hit the crossbar and post simultaneously as it whizzed into the net. Tottenham did not wait long to get the goal back. Kane and Bergwijn combined to earn Spurs a corner kick. On the kick, Moura flashed to the near post and met Bergwijn’s cross to redirect the ball into the far corner for a 2-1 Tottenham lead.

Tottenham continued to attack and pressure the ball following the second goal. It was the pressure that essentially led to goal 3. Doherty had crossed the ball, but the header was blocked, and the ball bounced free in the box. Giovani Lo Celso was first to react and placed a nice left footer right past the scrambling Maccabi Haifa side.

36 minutes into the game Spurs had a 2-goal lead and everyone could breathe a bit easier. Less than four minutes after the scrappy goal from Lo Celso, he and Kane combined for a little dink over the outrushing Cohen, giving Lo Celso his second on the night. As the whistle finally blew for half-time, it was clear Spurs were going to win, the question was by how much and if we would see Dele Alli.

Second Half Tottenham Finish the Job

The big questions as the break ended and the second half was to commence were what the final score was going to be and if Dele Alli was going to make an appearance.

While the final score would of course take the full 45 minutes, whether or not Dele would play – like the outcome of the game – was not in doubt as Spurs took the pitch with the English midfielder in the line-up having replaced Lo Celso who had the five minute brace shortly before the half.

Before Dele could really get involved, there was of course a handball in the box and a penalty awarded to Maccabi Haifa. Haziza brought the ball down on his chest near the top of the corner of the box.

He took a touch then tried to cut back to his right foot with a little chip from his left foot. That little dip with his left foot popped the ball up and into he not outstretched arm of Matt Doherty. There was no VAR and the referee was definitive in the call, but the penalty kicks from handballs continue to take up our time and question the current laws of the game.

Nikita Rukavytsya buried the penalty and with the lead cut to just two, Haifa was buoyed on and continued to attack and try to make a game of it. Less than 90 seconds after the goal, a simple pass on the ground up the middle of the pitch split the Spurs defense and gave Abu Fani some space again well outside the box. Abu Fani cranked again, but this time Joe Hart was able to palm the ball wide of goal for a corner.

As the corner was harmlessly headed far from goal for a goal kick, now just two minutes removed from the last handball penalty, the rule would again come up and this time essentially end the game. Lucas Moura fought hard to win Joe Hart’s booming goal kick and then Kane subsequently fought hard to control the ball and get it to Harry Winks to begin the attack. On the 10th pass of the move, Kane had received the ball from Bergwijn just outside the penalty box and he pushed the ball wide to Ben Davies.

In what was the 11th pass of the movement for Spurs, Ben Davies drilled a cross directly into the body of Mabouka the Haifa defender.  Again, no VAR, limited camara angles and little intent to really block the ball, but it was what it was and what it was, was the end of the game for Haifa. Moments after the whistle, Harry Kane stepped up to the spot and buried the penalty down the middle of the goal for his second goal on the night and a 5-2 Spurs lead.

What giveth taketh away and just as the handball rule had given Maccabi Haifa some life, in this instance the wind was really taken out of the teams sails and the game was safely away for Tottenham Hotspur. At this point the question was simply how many Spurs would score.

At 61 minutes first Steven Bergwijn was in, but the Dutch international seemed to run out of steam and lost his composure as his attempted chip on the onrushing Cohen was easily saved. Moments later, Haifa was on the attack and scored a beautiful volley move only to have it ruled out by offside from the linesman flag. Shortly later, Joe Hart showed he could come off his line still as he raced some 20 yards from his goal and slid in to clear the ball before the Haifa attacker could reach him.

On 67 minutes we saw some of the best action of the night as a Dele dummy led to another Doherty cross and ultimately some nice footwork from Lucas Moura earning Spurs yet another corner. Less than a minute later Dele had the ball and was attacking from wide left and rolled the ball to Moura who just missed a screamer as the ball sailed wide of the corner.

Less than a minute after Bergwijn again had a shot on target saved, Spurs had their best goal of the night. Defensive pressure from Sissoko and Winks led to a Sissoko theft and quick pass backwards to Harry Winks. Winks played a first time ball up to Dele Alli who was facing them with his back to the attack goal in the middle of Tottenham’s half of the pitch. Dele flicked wide to Bergwijn and turned to run. Bergwijn hit a first time pass backwards to Ben Davies, who this hit a first time through ball to Dele between the Haifa lines.

Dele was galloping past the defender was he too played a first-time ball into the path of Steven Bergwijn – who was in a race for the ball. Bergwijn won and then displayed an incredible stop and go step-over, pull back move that left the defender a full yard behind and Bergwijn attack the Haifa goal. Moura was at the back-post hand raised, Dele stopped his run to be square to Bergwijn and in flashed Harry Kane making a beeline for the goal.

Bergwijn played a nice little pass that split the defenders and went right into Kane’s path. Kane sprinted between the defenders and then dinked the ball with his left foot just moments before Cohen who was sliding out from goal. The ball bounced about six inches over the line giving Spurs their sixth goal and Kane his hattrick. Before the ball could even be kicked off, Sergio Reguilon was on and talisman Kane was off the pitch, a job well done with three goals and an assist.

As the match wore on, Spurs continued to attack looking for more goals. Both Moura and Bergwijn got more shots off, with the later forcing yet another save out of Cohen for Haifa. Just before the end of regulation Dele received the ball in the box from Moura and attacked Maccabi defender Planic, megging him before being brought down in the box. Dele steps up and buried the subsequent penalty kick for the 9th and final goal of the evening.