Tuesday 20 February 2018

Tottenham juggernaut rumbles on in impressive style

Tottenham 3 Fiorentina 0

Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Ryan Mason (left) celebrates scoring his team's first goal in the match against Fiorentina at White Hart Lane. Photo: Ian KingtonI/Getty Images
Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Ryan Mason (left) celebrates scoring his team's first goal in the match against Fiorentina at White Hart Lane. Photo: Ian KingtonI/Getty Images
Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur and Gonzalo Rodriguez of Fiorentina compete for the ball during the match at White Hart Lane. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images.
Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier and Nacer Chadli celebrates after Fiorentina's Gonzalo Rodriguez scored an own goal and the third goal for Tottenham. Photo: Matthew Childs/Reuters.

Jonathan Liew

The British Cabinet may be divided on the issue, but nobody is seriously suggesting Tottenham are better off out of Europe.

This was an emphatic vote to remain, a clear statement of intent, a sign that Mauricio Pochettino's side are a team with little respect for momentum. Little respect for history either, and this was pleasant revenge for their elimination by the same team, at the same stage, last season. In many ways, this was a sign of their rapid and irresistible growth in the last 12 months.

Ryan Mason got the ball rolling, Erik Lamela made the tie safe and Fiorentina's centre-half Gonzalo Rodriguez added the gloss late on.

Tottenham were clinical with their chances, which is more than might have been expected of them given the absence of Harry Kane up front. In fact, perhaps the only blot on their night was the yellow card rather harshly shown to Dele Alli for diving. He will now miss Tottenham's next match in the competition.

But more encouraging, with a title race still to be fought, was the ease and patience with which Tottenham eased back into the winning habit.

Few Spurs fans ever genuinely subscribed to the theory that elimination from the FA Cup against Crystal Palace last Sunday would be a welcome tonic allowing them to concentrate on the Premier League. For a club without a major trophy since 1991 - unless you count the League Cup, which most Spurs fans do only grudgingly - it was a stinging blow, and defeat here would have had a similarly debilitating effect.

But showing remarkable capacity for mental as well as physical rehabilitation, Tottenham can now look forward to this afternoon's last-16 draw in Nyon with genuine hope of improving their mediocre recent record in this competition. Seven Europa League campaigns in the last decade have produced nothing better than the quarter-finals, which for a club with three European trophies in its cabinet is not in the same vicinity as good enough.

Fiorentina started well but, like most good teams, Tottenham struck when their opponents dropped their guard.

It started with the tenacious Alli, tackling Davide Astori just 30 yards from his own goal, and continued with Mason, in just the right place to gather the loose ball in his stride.

Mason looked up, sized up his target with a glance, and summoned enough composure to open his shoulders and place the ball right-footed, into the corner of the goal.

Tottenham still needed to keep a clean sheet in order to be sure of going through but another goal would make things more secure and that duly arrived on the hour when Lamela finished well.

Fiorentina were tiring by now. Their clearances had just a little more haste to them, their tackles a little less. Nine minutes from time, Nacer Chadli slipped the ball to Kieran Trippier on the right wing. His cross was slammed high into the roof of the net not by a Tottenham boot, but by the despairing lunge of Fiorentina captain Rodriguez.

No club, at home or abroad, will now relish the prospect of negotiating them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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