Harry pain

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By John Percy in Athens

Kane goal in vain as Spurs throw away 2-0 lead at Olympia­cos

Athens is known as the city of ru­ins and just when Tot­ten­ham ap­peared to have built a solid foun­da­tion here, their propen­sity for self­de­struc­tion sur­faced again.

Spurs never seem to do it the easy way in the Cham­pi­ons League group stage and here was an­other ex­cru­ci­at­ing evening for Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino on his 50th game for the club in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion.

Po­chet­tino ac­cused his play­ers of fail­ing to show the re­quired “in­ten­sity” af­ter they threw away a twogoal lead for the sec­ond time in 17 days, fol­low­ing their 2-2 draw with Arse­nal last month.

In a scary re­peat of that dra­matic af­ter­noon at the Emi­rates, Spurs had ap­peared in to­tal con­trol af­ter scor­ing two goals against the run of play but spec­tac­u­larly col­lapsed, like a crum­bling old temple, to en­sure Olympia­cos se­cured a de­served point in Piraeus.

“When we don’t show that in­ten­sity the com­pe­ti­tion de­mands we strug­gle,” Po­chet­tino said.

“We are not talk­ing about the qual­ity of play­ers, we are talk­ing about fo­cus, con­cen­tra­tion, an­tic­i­pa­tion. How many times did we an­tic­i­pate the ac­tion? How many times were we not pro­duc­tive like we were against Palace [who Spurs beat 4-0 on Satur­day]?

“It’s not about tac­tics or qual­ity play­ers, but the level of fight, you need to match the op­po­nent in ag­gres­siv­ity, ex­cite­ment, mo­ti­va­tion. That is the first de­mand, you need to work. It’s not only the re­spon­si­bil­ity of one per­son, it’s the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one. I feel very dis­ap­pointed but, to be hon­est, I wasn’t happy with our first-half per­for­mance. From the be­gin­ning we had a plan and we didn’t re­spect it. This sea­son we are con­ced­ing too many chances and goals and we need to change the way.”

Maybe Po­chet­tino should have ex­pected such a chaotic en­counter on his re­turn to Europe. Last sea­son’s jour­ney to the show­piece fi­nal was mem­o­rable and ex­hil­a­rat­ing, with those re­mark­able vic­to­ries over Manch­ester City and Ajax in the knock­out stages.

But rewind to the start of their cam­paign and at one point it looked like they were on the brink of an early exit from the group.

Af­ter los­ing their first two games against In­ter and Barcelona, Po­chet­tino re­quired a res­cue mis­sion on the fi­nal match day in the Nou Camp, so there was pres­sure on Spurs here in the Greek cap­i­tal to make a state­ment.

A point against the rank out­siders in Group B rep­re­sents a pretty un­der­whelm­ing start, with Dele Alli – mak­ing his first start of the sea­son – and Chris­tian Erik­sen par­tic­u­larly poor on the night.

Harry Kane, who put Spurs ahead from the spot, said: “We wanted to get off to a win­ning start and put our­selves in a great po­si­tion. Last sea­son we didn’t play too well and had to play catchup. We’ve def­i­nitely got re­silience in the squad to do that, it’s only the first game and we’re def­i­nitely back­ing our­selves to get through but we’ve got a lot of im­prov­ing to do.”

Is it ever sim­ple with Spurs? Olympia­cos have re­turned to the Cham­pi­ons League group stage af­ter a two-year ab­sence and were re­silient op­po­nents, with the noise in the Karaiskaki­s Sta­dium deaf­en­ing and hos­tile.

Daniel Po­dence, the winger, pro­duced an out­stand­ing dis­play and was at the heart of all their best mo­ments, toy­ing with Ben Davies for much of the evening.

Olympia­cos, now un­beaten in 19 games in all com­pe­ti­tions, had started im­pres­sively and missed a glo­ri­ous chance in the 18th minute.

Kostas Tsimikas sent a teas­ing cross into the area and Po­dence chested down to Miguel An­gel Guer­rero, whose low shot across goal came back off a post. As Spurs failed to clear, mid­fielder Guil­herme drove over the cross­bar.

Spurs had been dis­jointed and laboured go­ing for­ward, but took the lead out of nowhere af­ter 26 min­utes. Kane, run­ning on to a pass from Alli, was brought down by Yas­sine Me­riah and, af­ter a video as­sis­tant ref­eree check, the Spurs striker clipped the penalty past Jose Sa. Olympia­cos were still re­flect­ing on wast­ing their early su­pe­ri­or­ity when, four min­utes later, Lu­cas Moura pow­ered a bril­liant 25-yard shot into the top cor­ner. It was an­other mo­ment of in­di­vid­ual ge­nius from the Brazil­ian.

Spurs should have been in con­trol, but in­ex­pli­ca­bly switched off one minute be­fore half-time.

In a fine move down the right, Po­dence ex­changed passes with Mathieu Val­buena and ad­vanced into the area to drill a low shot across Hugo Lloris into the cor­ner.

The tide was turn­ing, de­spite an Alli goal be­ing ruled out for off­side, and Spurs then re­lin­quished their grip seven min­utes into the sec­ond half.

Jan Ver­tonghen caught Val­buena and Gian­luca Roc­chi, the ref­eree, awarded his sec­ond penalty of the night. Val­buena made no mis­take and the deci­bel lev­els were ris­ing.

Alli cap­i­talised on a for­tu­itous de­flec­tion to test Sa with an an­gled shot. But with Po­dence con­tin­u­ing to im­press on the flank, Olympia­cos will rue the dropped points.

For Spurs, big­ger tests lie ahead: Bay­ern Mu­nich at home is up next.

On tar­get: Harry Kane scores Tot­ten­ham’s open­ing goal from the penalty spot in the 26th minute of last night’s group tie

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