Europa League: Tottenham Escapes France with Victory Thanks to Late Dembele Goal
Going into their Round of 32 second leg at the Stade Gerland, Tottenham Hotspur had a 2-1 lead that they earned through a victory at White Hart Lane in the first leg.
That lead was erased 17 minutes into the second leg as Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons headed in a goal that put Lyon ahead on aggregate.
After the goal was scored, the French side instituted a strategy of playing lockdown defense to deny any chance of a Spurs goal.
All of the positive work in their own half was wasted in a matter of seconds late in the second half, when Mousa Dembele unleashed a moment of individual brilliance.
Dembele was able to shake off a defender and send a rocket into the bottom right corner of the Lyon goal, past the outstretched arm of Remy Vercoutre.
Dembele's 90th minute goal rescued Tottenham from suffering a failure that would have been with criticism that they are a one-man team.
1 - Mousa Dembele's goal was Tottenham's first out of their last seven (in all competitions) not to come courtesy of Gareth Bale. Share.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 21, 2013
The superstar of the Tottenham squad, Gareth Bale, was silenced by the Lyon defense for most of the match.
The two chances that Bale did get on goal during the match were not his best of efforts.
Bale had a free kick saved easily by Vercoutre and he had a wild effort from 25 yards out go wide in the second half; that was all the Welshman could muster.
While much of the focus after the match will be on the goal scored by Dembele, the defensive tactics of Lyon must be given plenty of credit.
The French side were able to effectively shut down one of the best attacking players in the world, at the moment, and by doing so, they brought the Spurs attack to a stand-still for most of the match.
Lyon's undoing came in the same exact fashion that their loss in the first leg came, as one flash of brilliance by Tottenham erased all of their efforts.
Tottenham did not deserve a win in either leg of this tie but thanks to two magnificent free kicks off of the left foot of Bale and Dembele's last minute heroics, their spot in the Final 16 is now booked.
Next up for Andre Villas-Boas and company will be Inter Milan, who defeated Cluj 5-0 on aggregate in the Round of 32.
If history repeats itself, fans of both Spurs and Inter are in for a eye-pleasing two legs of European football.
Back in 2010, Gareth Bale announced himself to the continental stage with a hat-trick in a losing effort at the San Siro in the Champions League group stage.
The second group match between the two clubs saw Spurs take down the Nerazzurri at White Hart Lane by a 3-1 score.
While Tottenham will get to bask in their European glory for a few days, they must play better in the Round of 16 against another proven European powerhouse to once again be celebrating advancement in the Europa League in three weeks.
Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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