Any Tottenham Hotspur side, playing in an all-white kit under the floodlights at White Hart Lane in European competition, is following in a glorious tradition.
Andre Villas-Boas picked a strong side for his first Spurs game in the Europa League and it produced the best home performance of his short reign so far.
Prior to the match last night, the club showed a nice piece on the big screen where Tony Parks talked over footage of the famous UEFA Cup win in 1984. What followed, as Lazio took the pitch, had echoes of the 80s—but for all the worst reasons, with a number of cynical fouls, many of which went unpunished.
UEFA stats show they committed 22 fouls, practically one every four minutes, but not every foul was penalised, and a weak referee only booked four Lazio players.
The treatment of Aaron Lennon, the Tottenham captain on the night, was particularly brutal, as he was hacked and kicked several times as he continued to get into pockets behind the Italian defence with intelligent positioning and lightning pace. The stat that says he was only fouled four times is an indication of what the officials missed.
As well as doing little to stop Lazio’s spoiling tactics, which at times bordered on the dangerous with Dembele, Naughton and Lennon all being kicked up in the air at various points, the officials also incorrectly ruled out two good Tottenham goals.
Gareth Bale, coming in from the right, picked out Clint Dempsey, who scored a lovely header after a well-timed run that should have put Spurs 1-0 up in the first half, but it was incorrectly ruled out for offside.
Then, in the second half, the referee, who let numerous bad fouls from Lazio players go, harshly penalized Steven, who headed home an in-swinging corner from Bale.
Lazio, who briefly threatened when they hit the bar in the first half, hung on for a 0-0 draw in a game which Spurs dominated.
There was plenty of time lost in the game for treatment to players after continual fouling by Lazio players and their fans holding onto the ball, delaying the taking of a corner by over a minute. But despite Tottenham laying siege to the Lazio goal, the deserved winner didn’t come.
Apart from failing to secure the win, all the signs were encouraging for Tottenham. Hugo Lloris looked good both in his handling and positional play on his debut, Kyle Naughton looked comfortable at left-back again and Spurs continued to create chances in the final third.
A strong Tottenham side could still go far in this competition and add another chapter to the club’s European history.
Mel Gomes is the author of Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley, his journey following Tottenham Hotspur home and away in their return to the European Cup after an absence of 49 seasons. It includes tales of Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, a North London Derby comeback, seeing Barcelona win the Champions League and concludes with an epilogue in May 2012.
Mel Gomes is also on Twitter.
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