Wembley curse leaves Spurs facing uphill task
Tottenham 0 Leverkusen 1
If the housewarming party was a damp squib, the second Wembley do was pretty grim too as Bayer Leverkusen soundly beat Tottenham to leave them facing the prospect of a return to the Europa League they hoped they had left behind.
The Germans drank all the booze, smashed the glasses and trod dirt into the carpet leaving Spurs with some cleaning up to do. They now sit third in the group, three points behind Leverkusen and five behind Monaco who beat CSKA. With a trip to France still to come, reaching the knockout stages is a tall order. Play like this and reaching the Europa League is an ask. The attendance of 85,512 was a club match record for Wembley but how many Spurs fans will come here on a Thursday night?
Spurs were awful and were it not for Jan Vertonghen's efforts would have lost by more. They certainly go all trembly in the new Wembley: their record is now won one, lost six going back to 2008. Leverkusen outplayed them and could have won by more than their solitary goal scored by Kevin Kampl in the 65th minute. Dele Alli should have been awarded a penalty early in the second half and later Eric Dier smacked the bar with a free-kick but that was a good as it got.
The goals just won't come for Tottenham for whom it is now six games without a win and five without a goal in open play. Vincent Janssen, who has the turning circle, speed and touch of a dressage horse, played the last hour to little effect and now has three goals in 16 appearances.
Bayer Leverkusen's victory on Saturday was their first in five so the Germans were not exactly high on confidence walking up Wembley Way either but they were by far the better side.
Spurs' jitters were exemplified by Hugo Lloris booting a goalkick straight into touch (at White Hart Lane it would have gone out the ground) in the opening moments. Leverkusen were rapidly on the attack: quick passing and movement, with Javier Hernandez at the centre of it, causing havoc in the Spurs box and mild panic in the stands.
Kyle Walker, woeful all night, was next to give the ball away and Julian Brandt outpaced him down the wing, Vertonghen forcing the cross out for a corner.
On the half hour, Mauricio Pochettino was forced into a change with Dembele having picked up a knock. Janssen replaced the midfielder with Spurs changing to a 4-1-4-1 formation from 4-2-3-1. They immediately looked more dangerous with Eriksen finding space to fire in a shot which Berndt Leno batted away. With more men further up the vast Wembley turf Spurs were able to press higher and put Leverkusen under more pressure. Suddenly it was the Germans making the mistakes.
It was but a momentary change though and the mood swing swung back moments before half-time when and it took a double dose of Vertonghen brilliance to keep the scores level. A sloppy touch by Walker on the edge of his own box allowed Brandt to take the ball from his toe and as he shaped to shoot the Belgian slid in like a kid flying out of a theme park water chute and blocked but the ball fell invitingly to Hernandez. The Mexican's shot was goal-bound but Vertonghen, still on the deck, flicked up a leg to deflect it wide.
Spurs, presumably with Pochettino's words still ringing in their ears, started the second half well and should have been given a penalty moments into it when Alli, jinking into the box, was clipped by Julian Baumgartlinger. There was contact - albeit minimal - but Jonas Eriksson was unmoved. Eriksen rolled the loose ball just wide.
Further Walker madness almost let Leverkusen in again before Janssen skewed an effort wide and Walker, deciding attack might be his best form of defence, barrelled his way through the German midfield before firing just wide.
Dier then took his turn to have a wobble, mucking up first his control then a header back allowing Mehmedi in. His cut back was hit by Hernandez but Vertonghen blocked again and Lloris smothered the Mexican's effort on the rebound.
The goal duly arrived when Charles Aranguiz shot from 20 yards. The ball was deflected to Walker whose poor touch merely set up Kampl who took a touch and tucked the ball home.
Dier hit the bar from his free-kick and Janssen inevitably fluffed the rebound and that was that for Spurs. The boos rang out at the final whistle. And it's Arsenal up next. (© Independent News Service)