Tottenham manager Antonio Conte called on unlikely heroes Clement Lenglet and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on Tuesday evening as the Lilywhites edged to a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Marseille to progress to the Champions League knockout stages as Group D winners. Spurs were under the cosh in the first half but Rodrigo Bentancur flourished in a new role after the break to help drag his side into the game. After a gripping encounter, Express Sport brings you five things we learned…
Marseille fans almost play pivotal part
Home supporters set about their mission of giving Marseille the best possible chance of victory in the small hours of Tuesday morning. Fireworks were supposedly let off outside Tottenham’s team hotel at around 4am to ensure they went into the tie fatigued.
The next phase of the cunning plan was to create a raucous, electric, hostile atmosphere inside the Stade Velodrome. Indeed, Spurs started the game like a flustered side and it wasn’t until the second half that they began to find their feet.
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Conte banishes Champions League demons
An esteemed manager with success in Italy and England, Conte has historically found the Champions League a tougher hunting ground. The Spurs boss hadn’t been into the knockout stages since guiding Chelsea to the round of 16 in 2017/18, crashing out in successive seasons in the group stage while in charge of Inter.
Tottenham fans needed no reminding of his poor European record before kick-off on Tuesday, but although he did it the hard way, not least because he wasn’t on the touchline following a red card against Sporting Lisbon, the precious result led one of his sides into the knockout stages for just the third time in his career.
Attacking blushes spared by unlikely heroes
For the majority of the game, it appeared as though Spurs had got their attacking tactics wrong. Harry Kane cut an isolated figure up top, which was to be expected given the injuries to Richarlison and Dejan Kulusevski, while things only got worse when Son went off injured.
The England captain had no usual suspects to bounce off and he was often left to try and orchestrate attacks on his own until Bentancur joined in after the break. All of that was forgotten when Conte’s side were bailed out by two unlikely heroes, however, as Lenglet popped up with a crucial second-half header to tip the scales in Spurs’ favour before Hojbjerg finished the job.
Tottenham get last laugh over Arsenal alumni
Marseille star Alexis Sanchez spoke openly this week about how he would love to get one over on Spurs for his old club, Arsenal. Former Gunners Matteo Guendouzi and Sead Kolasinac, as well as loan star Nuno Tavares, will also have been keen to come out on the winning side but it was the white-shirted half of north London that came out smiling on Tuesday.
Tavares made a good start to the game, drawing a foul from Ryan Sessegnon before setting up a chance for Sanchez. The Chilean, meanwhile, was Marseille’s dangerman on the night and very nearly sparked scenes of bedlam with a close-range effort that was blocked by Ivan Perisic. Kolasinac went on to spurn the hosts’ best chance of the second half as he headed a point-blank opportunity past the post.