Tottenham Hotspur were virtually out of the Champions League after game week three, tet they have gone through each round and tonight faced a brilliant young Ajax team in a mouthwatering first leg semi-final tie at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium. Ultimately a lack of strength in depth has given Tottenham a mountain to climb.
Lack of Strength in Depth Gives Tottenham a Mountain to Climb
Tottenham’s Defensive Woes On Show Again
Spurs started with Fernando Llorente and Lucas Moura up front and all the talk before the game was of where the goals might come from. Llorente got the ball early on and already the suspended Son Heung-min looked like he could be a huge miss for the home team. Dele Alli tried a through ball to Llorente, who was on another wavelength back on his heels. Ajax were pressing high and cutting out any space Spurs tried to create.
Considering the standard of defenders in the Spurs defence, it is incredible just how many mistakes they have made this season and, once again, they were asleep as on 19 minutes Donny van de Beek put Ajax ahead. The entire back line stood like statues and it looked like a long night ahead for the North London club. The one thing Tottenham needed to do was not concede early. The body language of the players was concerning and the players looked dazed and confused.
Lucas Moura Manages to Wake Tottenham From Their Slumber
After 35 minutes of very little from Spurs, Lucas Moura started to show signs of waking his team from their slumbers. Showing pace, he went into the box and won a corner. It was an impetus that the home team had lacked until this stage. Jan Vertonghen had to go off with suspected concussion and Moussa Sissoko replaced him with Danny Rose dropping back into a back four. Tottenham gained more control of the ball and looked more confident with Toby Alderweireld going close with a header from a Kieran Trippier cross.
Half-time came as Tottenham were in the ascendency. Ajax went into the break with a goal lead and, more importantly, with an away goal.
Tottenham Up the Tempo
Tottenham came out quickly and Llorente showed good feet but took one touch too many instead of shooting. It was a real chance for Spurs to level. Alli then had a half-chance with a volley but it was straight at the keeper. Tottenham have shown more than once that they up the tempo in the second half of matches and it looked like they were following suit here.
With 74 minutes gone Christian Eriksen picked out Danny Rose but his shot was blocked for a corner. Time was running out for Tottenham to take something from this first leg tie.
Post to the Rescue
For all of Tottenham’s second-half efforts, it was Ajax who came closest to extending the lead. David Neres was found by the outstanding Dusan Tadic only to see his shot come back off the post with Hugo Lloris beaten. Soon after, Alderweireld headed over for Spurs and Tottenham had less than ten minutes to give themselves a boost ahead of the second leg.
Tottenham’s Injuries Take Their Toll
Losing 1-0 is not a disaster for Tottenham, but the injuries have taken their toll. In the first half they were out-passed, out-thought and out-fought. They lacked an attacking presence and the defending for the Ajax goal was as bad as you will see. It was basic, schoolboy stuff that you cannot afford to do at this level.
Ajax are a class outfit. Slick and they press so high. Tottenham worked hard but just couldn’t match their opponents.
Tottenham now have it all to do in Amsterdam in just over a week’s time. Even the most optimistic Spurs fan may just have to accept that yet again, Tottenham may fail to get past a semi-final of a major competition, and they must change that. Whether it is next week or next season, the narrative has to change.