Monday 21 January 2019

Late Moura strike allows Tottenham to make most of Inter misery

Barcelona 1 Tottenham 1

Lucas Moura scores Tottenham’s equalsier against Barcelona at the Nou Campso. Photo: Getty
Lucas Moura scores Tottenham’s equalsier against Barcelona at the Nou Campso. Photo: Getty

James Ducker

This turned out to be the miracle of Barcelona for Mauricio Pochettino's team, even if the real drama took place in Milan, where an improbable 1-1 draw for PSV Eindhoven against Inter secured Spurs' progress to the second round of the Champions League against all the odds.

Against a Barcelona team that rested many of their biggest names - although Lionel Messi was on the pitch for the final 30 minutes or so - substitute Lucas Moura scored an 85th-minute equaliser that salvaged the draw that gave Spurs a place in the knockout stages.

Tottenham's Lucas Moura celebrates with Fernando Llorente and Erik Lamela after scoring Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs
Tottenham's Lucas Moura celebrates with Fernando Llorente and Erik Lamela after scoring Photo: Reuters/Paul Childs

But really a draw should never have been enough for Spurs. Instead, this was a colossal cock-up by Inter Milan who failed to beat PSV Eindhoven in their own stadium.

Only the second point of the Champions League group for the Dutch champions meant that Spurs' draw was enough to see them through in second place on the head-to-head between them and Inter.

Perhaps, the new White Hart Lane will see Champions League football this season after all.

To their credit, Spurs came back after falling behind after only seven minutes to a wonderful goal from Ousmane Dembele, which might have drained their belief. They had to face Messi in a nerve-racking end to the game and, although there were moments when he spun and passed and moved, this was Messi in third gear - not top speed.

Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura of Tottenham Hotspur celebrate with team mates after the match. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura of Tottenham Hotspur celebrate with team mates after the match. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

There were eight changes from the Barcelona team that dispatched Espanyol last Saturday.

In the place of the likes of Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba, came a team of relative youth and some inexperience but all suffused with that old Barca magic.

There was a Champions League debut for academy graduate Carles Alena, a 20-year-old Catalan who stroked the ball around in the centre of midfield as so many of his predecessors have done.

Complementing

At left-back there was a start for the 18-year-old Juan Miranda, and complimenting that were some experienced faces, too.

Philippe Coutinho, only a substitute in the win over Espanyol, started in attack and on the right wing was Dembele.

The 21-year-old Frenchman is one month younger than Kyle Walker-Peters, who was starting his first Champions League game for Spurs and will never forget the moment that Moussa Sissoko's ropy header came at him.

It was a horrible moment for Walker-Peters who, on another day, in another game, would have brought the awkward bouncing ball down and distributed it without any trouble.

But now he was in the crosshairs of Dembele who is mesmerisingly quick, so quick there is a kind of cruelty at the way in which he makes fast players look slow and slow players look static.

He did the same to Kyle Walker playing for France in Paris last year and now it was another player of much the same name to suffer the same fate.

Dembele first forced Walker-Peters off the ball, and then pushed it into an area where the Spurs man had to twist and chase. That was when the jets went on and having seen Dembele over one shoulder, Walker-Peters was now watching him over another.

Dembele is not just quick; he was on this occasion a brilliantly ruthless finisher. He shaped to strike with his right and Harry Winks, running back to cover, had to gamble on that being the shot.

The Spurs player launched himself in front of the ball and was still sliding towards the corner flag when Dembele did the switch onto his left foot and slotted the ball past Hugo Lloris.

A breathtaking goal, and it took Spurs a while to regain their composure.

Naturally, they had to contend with Barcelona having a lot of the ball and the full press was not always wise with Dembele and Coutinho out wide and very dangerous. They had conceded from a move that began when Barcelona were defending a free-kick.

With PSV Eindhoven winning against Inter Milan there was no onus on them to throw everything to attack and their best first-half chances were when they won the ball and attacked quickly. Both were made by Christian Eriksen. He slipped in Danny Rose down the left for a cross that Heung-min Son could not quite reach.

The Spurs striker should have done better with the second, holding off Thomas Vermaelen for a shot that Jasper Cillessen saved with his feet.

It could have been worse for Spurs at half-time, with Coutinho having clipped a post with a shot he took deceptively early.

Sergio Busquets replaced Ivan Rakitic at the start of the second half and then Messi came on with 26 minutes left.

The news of a goal for Inter Milan came with about 17 minutes of regulation time left at the Nou Camp where the game had gone flat and the home team seemed to be losing interest.

Spurs kept at it and it was Harry Kane who made the goal, crossing the ball to Moura, arriving in the area as Spurs pressed attackers forward.

They might have had a second from Danny Rose later on but, as Inter faltered, one was enough. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport