Tottenham copy Arsenal collapse as Mauricio Pochettino's men fail to perform on big stage

Posted Thursday, September 19, 2019 by

Tottenham copy Arsenal collapse as Mauricio Pochettino's men fail to perform on big stage
Tottenham copy Arsenal collapse as Mauricio Pochettino's men fail to perform on big stage (Image: GETTY)

Tottenham blew a two-goal lead as Olympiakos fought back to draw their opening Champions League group stage fixture 2-2.

For once Tottenham failed to produce their usual Champions League late drama despite travelling to the city that invented the word.

Athens has seen its fair share of tragedies and the main one for Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday night was that his Tottenham side failed to hold on to a two-goal lead that they ill-deserved in the first place.

The excitement of Amsterdam and the Etihad from last season seemed like distant memories.

And Tottenham certainly looked anything like the team that reached last season’s final.

For all that Maurico Pochettino had rung the changes, there were still eight players in the starting line-up who played in Madrid in June.

But perhaps taken aback by the raucous support from the Olympiakos fans, Tottenham struggled to settle in their unfamiliar Aegean-blue third strip and their tag of one of Europe’s big guns.

The Greek side had gone eight games in the Champions League without a win since they beat Dinamo Zagreb in November 2015 and seemed determined to make up for lost time. No doubt, they will think they deserved better.

They were on the front foot from the start, exploiting Pochettino’s obstinate decision to persevere with Davinson Sanchez as his right-back.

In the 18th minute Kostas Tsmikas crossed, Daniel Podence chested the ball down and Miguel Guerrero arrowed his shot against the foot of the post. Guilherme hit a follow-up shot into the ground and over the bar.

But that’s where Harry Kane is so useful.

Nothing looked on when he burst hopefully into the box, but almost as though dazzled by his reputation alone, Yassine Meriah stuck out a leg, caught the England captain’s shins and over he duly tumbled.

If his penalty dispatched into the roof of the net was ill-deserved, nobody could quite believe it when Tottenham doubled their lead just four minutes later.

Ben Davies picked out Lucas Moura, the Olympiakos defence backed away, and Tottenham’s Champions League semi-final hero was back in the act again, drilling a shot just inside the near post.

Tottenham could have had the game sewn up before the break but when Dele Alli was unceremoniously upended by Ruben Semedo five minutes before half-time the referee chose to give a free-kick the other way.

It was just encouragement the shell-shocked Greeks needed. They had played by far the better football and this time when a neat one-two with Mathieu Valbuena put him clear, Podence was able to steer his shot just inside the upright.

Alli was denied a goal immediately after the restart by a very tight VAR offside decision and as the Tottenham jitters continued, a clumsy tackle by Jan Vertonghen on Valbuena on the edge of the box and the Frenchman picked himself and put away the penalty himself.

Having not conceded a two-goal lead since that infamous night at Stamford Bridge in 2016 when Leicester won the league, Tottenham had now done it twice in 17 days - against both Arsenal and Olympiakos.

Tottenham tried to respond. Alli had a shot saved when a cut back to Kane would have surely ended in a simple tap-in.

Substitute Erik Lamela nearly squeezed a shot inside the near post and Kane hit the bar albeit from an offside position.

To be frank, though, Tottenham did not deserve a winner.

They struggled in the group stages last season and did not do too badly.

But that will be little consolation to fans making their long way back to England after another performance that typifies what is increasingly becoming a very hit-and-miss season for Tottenham.

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