Spurs came crashing out of the Europa League after a 5-3 aggregate defeat to Benfica in the last-16 leg.
Tottenham were arguably, the better side in the first half. The workrate of the team was particularly high to start with Bentaleb and Rose making some particularly meaningful challenges to show a bit of fight and grit that has been missing in recent weeks.
Nacer Chadli was making the most of his start to create and get play going early on, potentially as a retaliation to his unlucky and frustrating performance against Arsenal in the North London derby.
Sandro and Bentaleb showed worrying signs early on as the pair began to limp around the pitch how beer quickly recovered. Danny Rose attempted to do his fair share of attacking as he tried multiple driving runs into the Benfica half in order to push his team forward, he did particularly well to win a freekick around the six minute mark.
Kyle Naughton continued the early progress by Spurs as his attempted threaded pass into Lennon was cut out, despite the dangerous run from the Captain. Spurs did their own fair share of defending in the first half, Sigurdsson and Townsend doing their best to clear the ball in order to not give away a corner however despite an indicator that they had succeeded, the referee gave a corner to the home side.
The fight from Tottenham continued, Sandro defended well from Luisao as his header threatened the goal, however the Brazilian managed to rise above the centre-back. Soldado won a freekick at the other end, from Luisao and the defender was lucky not to see red, considering the Spaniard was the last man. Spurs continued the tempo and won a strong of corners and freekicks.
Spurs continued to ramp up the pressure. Soldado and Chadli performed the first of many good link-ups, as the pair conducted several short and snappy passes to each-other inside the Benfica half but the final ball drove Chadli too far wide, however he won the corner. The best chance of the half fell to Soldado. The corner came swinging into the back post, only for the former Valencia striker to control a bounced shot, which hit the floor and flew over the bar.
The remainder of the half followed a similar suit, with chances flying all over. Benfica’s goal came as a crashing blow, Garay made it 1-0 and 4-1 on aggregate, making his header plant an impossible challenge onto Spurs’ shoulders. It was 1-0 at the interval.
The second half became a whirlwind of madness. After lengthy periods of dull, and rather drab football, Spurs came into life. Nacer Chadli made it 1-1 with a thumping effort into the bottom of the goal and gave Spurs a glimmer of hope. The Belgian then doubled his effort just moments later with a neat finish after Kane’s knock-on, the youngster assisting both the goals. With moments left, Spurs were searching for the leveller and thought they had it when Kane fell in the box, demanding a penalty. The referee waved away claims, only for him to then award Benfica one at the other end. Ending Spurs hopes, Lima scored to make it 2-2 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate.
Friedel – Not bad for the old man but he struggled at times (Average)
Naughton – Improving all the time. (Good)
Sandro – Covered the position very well (Good)
Fryers – The young man is evolving well. (Good)
Rose – Not his greatest performance (Poor)
Bentaleb – Arguably his best game for us. (Very good)
Sigurdsson – Didn’t make too good an impact on the game (Average)
Chadli – MOTM. Fantastic (Excellent)
Lennon – Wasn’t really a captains performance (Poor)
Townsend – Sigh. (poor)
Soldado – Just not clicking (Poor)
Spurs blogger, Nikhil Saglani has shared his views on the game:
Ever so close, yet ever so far. If the quote by Danny Blanchflower referred to a single match, it would be this one. It’s just a shame it hasn’t been a happier night. Another average first half but superb last 15 minutes gave every Spurs fan hope. But it’s the hope that kills you, doesn’t it?
Tonight, credit goes to four players who I thought were brilliant; Ezekiel Fryers for his superb job as a stand in, young centre half. Next Nacer Chadli. Looked a constant threat after a fine performance at the weekend. His two goals took us to the brink of victory. Thirdly, Kyle Naughton. Often criticised for his performances as a left-back, he’s really come into his own recently. Another very encouraging display, bar a few lapses in concentration. Finally, Nabil Bentaleb. Referred to as Sherwood’s love child and the scapegoat for many a Spurs fan, he showed that you can do something with kids. A 19 year old who looked comfortable in the hostile atmosphere of the Estadio da Luz.
“Even failure will have in it an echo of glory” is how Blanchflower quote ends. Tonight, we end up on the losing side but walk away with our heads held high. An injury hit, under pressure Tottenham side scored two goals and drew away to one of Europe’s powerhouses. Now it’s time to take the performance and finish the league season strongly. And who knows, with performances like tonight, could it be a final push to success? Tottenham Hotspur, I Can’t Smile Without You.
NB: The quote was actually said by Danny Blanchflower (Spurs’ Double Winning Captain in 1961) and not Bill Nicholson. Many fans of that generation are puzzled as to how Bill was credited with it. He wasn’t a man of fine words, unlike Danny. (via Norman Giller, ex-journalist and massive Spurs fan).