No Harry? No worries.
Tottenham lined up against Fiorentina on Thursday night (a team sitting 3rd in Serie A) with three key players missing from the spine of the team. Vertonghen remains ruled out in defence, whilst a groin injury to midfield colossus Dembele and a broken nose for striker Kane ruled them out of this European clash.
Many were thinking this may be a throw-away game for Spurs. Play the youngsters and the second string, bow out and focus on the league. This mentality however couldn’t have been further from the minds of Maurcio Pochettino and his players, as those he called on to replace those missing stepped up to dismiss one of the top sides in Italy with a ruthless professionalism that has been the trademark of this transformative season.
Mason scored his first since a long injury lay off
The game unfolded as a blueprint of the Pochettino style of play. The pressing was relentless for the full ninety. The passing was sharp and incisive. The movement was clever. Dier and Mason tracked their runners when without the ball and were intelligent in possession. Davies and Trippier bombed on once again as auxiliary wingers, especially Trippier who since the Christmas period has improved with every appearance. Lloris was commanding and Alderweireld’s positioning was so inch perfect it almost seems as if he’s a machine programmed by scientists rather than a human being.
The reward for this performance was delivered in the 22nd minute when stand-in forward Nacer Chadli played the ball forward to Dele Alli. Alli braved the challenge of Davide Astori to poke through for the on-rushing Ryan Mason. This was a run Mason had made many times last year, and by his own admission had panicked in the position he found himself in. This time he kept his cool and opened up his body to find the far corner of the net with an assured finish. This was Mason’s first European goal for Spurs and was just reward for a player who’s worked so hard to overcome injury this season.
Fiorentina offered little in the way of threat as Bernadeschi and Kalinic were wasteful in attack, and ex-West Brom man Borja Valero struggled to dictate the tempo in midfield. On the hour mark Tottenham hammered home the last nail in the coffin for the Viola, when Erik Lamela swivelled on a spilled save from keeper Tatarusanu, to pinch it off the foot of Christian Eriksen and fire home. This was the Argentine’s 6th goal in the competition, leaving him only behind Bilbao marksman Artiz Aduriz in the overall top scorers.
A tiring Viola were then picked off in the final ten minutes, when Kieran Trippier burst down the right hand side. The full-back whipped in a typically dangerous cross that seemed destined to fall to Alli for a tap-in. However, a desperate lunge from Fiorentina captain Gonzalo Rodriguez saw the centre-half deflect the ball into his own net for an emphatic 3-0 win.
This was a performance that showed Spurs are unwilling to relinquish any result even if it may mean an easier run-in. The current Tottenham side simply isn’t built to cater to that kind of mentality. And whilst some may say the Europa League weakens us domestically, winning games can only be a positive thing. Momentum and belief are hugely important at this stage of the season, and seeing off some Europe’s best will instil that in our young squad.
Sousa was full of praise for Spurs. His former club Swansea will visit White Hart Lane on the weekend.
After the match Fiorentina boss Paulo Sousa said that:
“I believe that Spurs are in the top five in Europe at the moment, in terms of the intensity and quality of their play,” Fiorentina manager Paolo Sousa. “After the second goal, we found it extremely difficult. Until 1-0, I thought the game was well-balanced.”
Sousa is not the first boss to praise Spurs after facing us. This should not go unnoticed. The manager believes, the players believe, and the teams we face believe after playing us. Let’s not talk about prioritising or wanting less games. Let’s believe in our team the same way they believe in themselves, and see where this special season takes us.
Written by Josh Smith
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