TOTTENHAM could not deliver their battered and bruised fans victory over Lazio, but their Hugo Lloris-inspired draw at the Stadio Olimpico means they are one step closer to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Their draw against the Rome-based club did not come without controversy, however, as Lazio fans chanted “Juden Tottenham” at the away fans in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe at the end of a troubled 24 hours for the visiting fans. One Tottenham fan was in hospital last night after being stabbed in the skull and thigh during an attack on a bar in the city centre in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Lazio, and their icon Paul Gascoigne, who was guest of honour here in the Italian capital, would have hoped for the football to do the talking, but the apparent anti-Semitic chanting will disappoint Uefa, who fined the club for monkey-chanting during the reverse fixture in September.
Gascoigne’s appearance on the pitch had rekindled memories of a glorious era for Lazio and Spurs, but last night’s tie proved to be anything but a classic. Libor Kozak, making a rare start, missed a hatful of chances for the hosts, but Lloris was equally important in keeping Lazio at bay. The Frenchman, chosen ahead of Brad Friedel, denied Kozak twice in the first half and was a steady and assuring presence throughout.
Tottenham rarely threatened – although Gareth Bale’s early strike should not have been ruled out for offside. But Panathinaikos’ victory over Maribor means Tottenham only have to draw their final game at home to the Greeks next month to qualify.
Gascoigne’s emotional lap of honour had whipped up the feelings of both sets of fans, and the game started off with a bang for the away side. Spurs should have been 1-0 up after just four minutes when Bale latched on to Tom Carroll’s through-ball and rounded Federico Marchetti, but the linesman incorrectly ruled the goal offside.
Spurs continued to dominate and went close when Bale picked out Gylfi Sigurdsson, but Stefan Radu intervened to prevent the forward from scoring.
The home crowd inside the half-empty Stadio Olimpico were surprisingly quiet in the opening quarter, but they were brought to the edge of their seats in the 18th minute. Lloris, who was partly responsible for a howler against Maribor two weeks ago, mis-judged Cristian Ledesma’s 30-yard shot, which he palmed on to the bar. The former Lyon man quickly made amends by getting to his feet and forcing Alvaro Gonzalez wide with the follow-up.
Other than a dipping shot from Bale, Spurs were struggling to get in to the game and they had Lloris to thank for stopping them from going behind again moments later. Kyle Walker’s slip allowed Kozak to break through, but Lloris saved the striker’s shot with his out-stretched leg. Kozak missed a sitter on the half hour, nodding wide from eight yards.
Lazio split the Spurs defence again just before half-time to send Kozak through, but Lloris came to the rescue again, storming off his line to clear. Both sets of supporters sang Gascoigne’s name at half-time, but the football both sides produced after the break was nowhere near the great man’s standards.
Spurs were sloppy in possession and had Kozak to thank for his awful finishing. The 23-year-old latched on to a through ball but he dragged his shot wide, much to the annoyance of the home fans.
Ledesma bent a free-kick over the wall and just wide of Lloris’ goal as Lazio continued to threaten. Lloris clattered in to a post as he challenged for a cross with Mauri and then cleared off the line with six minutes to go from Michael Ciani’s header.