Friday, December 8, 2023

Tottenham suffer Arsenal hangover in bore draw – but Champions League fate in their hands

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A point in Europe is better than listening to the neighbours crowing.

And at least Tottenham’s Champions League fate is still in their own hands after a much-improved display.

But if head coach Antonio Conte was hoping the hangover from the north London derby defeat would be cured in a German noise pollution society, he found neither Vorsprung durch Technik nor plink-plink-fizz in adequate supply.

Harry Kane endured a night of pure exasperation, shackled by 38-year-old Japanese veteran Makoto Hasebe. And the only time he found the net, the ball didn’t follow him.

In a bearpit atmosphere raucous enough to make stiff upper lips tremble like a weight-watcher’s torso on a treadmill, this was a litmus test of Spurs’ resolve.

With 50,000 fans whipped into a confected frenzy at the Deutsche Bank Park, Tottenham must have felt they were hostages of a cult.

And for long periods, they rose to the challenge admirably.

Come on, feel the noise? In his pre-match strop, Conte acknowledged Spurs had come up short this season when the volume was cranked up, notably in the north London derby and his catchweight shoving match with Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.
This time, his demand for more “personality” from his players away from home, when the atmosphere demanded stiffness of sphincter and rectum, elicited a positive response.

Unchanged, despite losing their unbeaten Premier League record in wooden fashion down the Seven Sisters Road at the weekend, they should have been home and hosed before the break.

Frankfurt are on their maiden Champions League campaign after beating Barcelona, West Ham and Rangers to reach the land of milch and honig, as they in these parts – but they are nothing special.
Eintracht’s stadium is located in a forest on the way to the airport, and if Spurs had finished with more conviction, they would have been on Easy Street.

But when the chances came and went, they couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

When Emerson Royal – dismissed for a pointless tactical foul in the derby debacle – is Tottenham’s most dangerous attacking outlet, it is usually a sure sign that creativity will be an early casualty of Conte’s cautious instincts.

But the Brazilian wing-back, enjoying generous space, sent a dipping half-volley from distance over the top in an early statement of Tottenham’s intent.

Kane, unmarked at the far post, failed to connect decisively from Heung-min Son’s wicked cross – and when the England captain found the net from the Korean’s centre 12 minutes later, somehow the ball stayed out.
To his evident frustration, Kane then dragged another shot wide as Spurs enjoyed the best openings, none better than Son firing wastefully off-target from his sidekick’s deft flick and Ivan Perisic’s deflected effort spinning agonisingly wide.

If you want to nit-pick, too many forward passes didn’t find their target, while the tempo was often nearer business-like than urgent.

And when Conte was crying out for a pass through the eye of the proverbial needle, Spurs could not thread a Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel.

They nearly paid a heavy price for their profligacy when Ansgar Knauff failed to connect properly with a close-range volley and Hugo Lloris sprawled to the rescue.

Then Jesper Lindstrom fired over after Cristian Romero got himself in a pickle.

In the end, it was much ado about nothing-nothing. But it felt more like two points dropped than on gained.

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