Spurs crash in Turkey
Less than 48 hours after local rivals Arsenal played in Turkey, it was Tottenham’s turn as they took on Besiktas looking to qualify top of their Europa League group. With both sides already through to the knock out stages, Spurs only needed a point to finish above their opponents and, hopefully, earn a more favourable draw in the next round.
Mauricio Pochettino showed both his commitment to this competition and the strength of his squad, putting out an experienced team that included right back Kyle Walker, playing his first game for nearly 9 months. On the other hand, Slaven Bilic fielded a team missing a host of injured stars, including top scorer, Demba Ba.
The game very quickly had its first major incident. Spurs started brightly and were clearly not here to hold out of a draw with both Nacer Chadli and Danny Rose putting dangerous crosses into the box, before darkness fell upon the stadium. Floodlight failure forced the players to be taken off the field and we were left with an unwanted 15 minute break before play could resume.
Once the game restarted both teams took a while to reorganise and there were chances at both ends from corners, before the London side found their rhythm again and should’ve scored after 15 minutes. Paulinho’s free kick was headed down by Younes Kaboul, only for Roberto Soldado to make a poor connection only a few yards out.
Spurs would continue to look comfortable, without causing Besiktas too much trouble, although Chadli did put the ball in the net, only to be correctly flagged for offside. The first half kept up this pattern, with Pochettino’s men on the front foot, although the Turkish side were starting to show signs of life on the break, but Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches stood firm.
The second half started in similar fashion, with Rose and Walker causing havoc on the flanks, before the game changed in the blink of an eye. For the first time in the match Besiktas put pressure on the Spurs defence, and after Kaboul lost possession, Cenk Tosan rattled the crossbar with a thunderbolt of a shot. Less than a minute later, and with the bar still shaking, Tosan had scored, tapping in from close range after Olcay Sahan’s pass.
Spurs, now needing a goal, brought on Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon but, despite adding fresh legs these two were unable to up the tempo enough and they continued to have possession without creating many chances.
Besiktas could have won by more had Karim Frei’s finishing been more composed, but they held on to the victory despite a second floodlight failure in injury time which, effectively put an end to any late heroics from Spurs.
Bilic will be pleased with the result and can be proud of his players commitment. Pochettino, on the other hand, will know that if Spurs are to progress further in this competition and earn that Champions league spot, he will have to bring out the big guns for the next round.