Tottenham Hotspur Fail to Make the Most of Panathinaikos Opportunity

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Tottenham Hotspur Fail to Make the Most of Panathinaikos Opportunity
Stu Forster/Getty Images
Athens was a lot warmer for Andre Villas-Boas than Carlisle last week (as pictured here), but his Spurs team did not enjoy as good a result.

Greek teams are becoming something of an irritation for Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League.

Their 0-0 draw away at PAOK in September 2011 did not seem an entirely bad result considering Harry Redknapp fielded a team consisting mostly of younger players getting their first experience on the continent.

However, it was a decidedly more experienced lineup that lost to the Thessaloniki side in the return fixture a couple of months later.

At least in that instance there was some urgency about Tottenham's play as they looked to rescue the game, something that cannot be said about their tepid 0-0 draw against Panathinaikos on Thursday night.

An even stronger side than the one that lost to PAOK went out to Greece, yet despite taking the lead through a first-half Michael Dawson header, they rarely looked interested in a fixture that should have been a relatively comfortable three points (despite the humid conditions).

It wasn't even a case of Panathinaikos particularly deserving their first Group J point either.

Aside from their well-crafted equalizer and a subsequent late flurry of chances, the team known as The Shamrock looked equally uninspired and should have been well beaten long before they drew level.

Toche's goal failed to spark Spurs into life for a late push to win the game—perhaps an indictment of their real interest in progressing in this competition—despite pre-match claims to the contrary by manager Andre Villas-Boas and players such as Clint Dempsey?

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Tottenham failed to build on their terrific win over Man United, despite Clint Dempsey's claims about the seriousness with which they were taking the Europa League.

In all probability there is some truth there, but it is equally likely that Spurs dismissed the Greeks as a pushover, an assessment not entirely without merit considering their performance for large portions of the game.

Yet even if the Premier League side did not view this fixture as a challenge worthy of their full efforts (in hindsight, quite erroneously), their failure to dispatch Panathinaikos is slightly disconcerting for a couple of reasons.

Practically speaking, it was an opportunity to earn three points that would aid their qualification hopes and simultaneously improve their chances of achieving this with a game or two to spare, potentially allowing some players to be rested in the run-up to the busy Christmas period.

Following on from last weekend's heroics at Old Trafford, a win in Athens would have also served to reinforce the team's credentials.

A swift completion of the task at hand in Europe would have said something about this team's ability to do as they said.

Not for Tottenham Hotspur a lackadaisical approach to the Europa League! Instead, another opportunity for them to go out and win a game of football!

In the grand scheme of things it is a result that, for one reason or another, might not mean much down the line.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Former Spur Darren Bent returns to White Hart Lane with Aston Villa this Sunday.

But as Spurs look to confirm themselves a serious threat in what looks an increasingly competitive Premier League, a draw with a poor Panathinaikos team hardly engendered feelings of invincibility.

Qualification remains a strong possibility after Lazio beat Maribor in Thursday's other Group J game, so for now Tottenham will turn their attentions to Sunday's home game with Aston Villa.

Few in England have performed erratically as Villa this season, so identifying what type of threat they will pose at White Hart Lane is not an easy task.

However, Villas-Boas and his squad must be well aware that not heading into the international break on the back of a further three points would be a disappointing and costly end to the momentum they have built up in the past month.

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