It has been a quiet start to the White Hart Lane careers of Tottenham’s two recruits from Swansea over the summer. Michel Vorm may of course be playing the long game, banking – and not without justification – on Hugo Lloris following the footsteps of Luka Modric and Gareth Bale before him to the Bernabeú in the summer. The absence of Ben Davies in league fixtures, though, has perhaps been a bit more of a surprise, with his expected displacement of Danny Rose yet to come to pass. Davies has been getting his chance in the Europa League, however, and tonight started relatively well, before he fell victim to the concentration issues that continue to plague the Spurs back line. Vorm, meanwhile, offers a considerable advantage as back-up keeper over his predecessor Brad Friedel (not least the 12 year age difference); and certainly is a better option than the man who ended up with the gloves in the last match between these teams a fortnight ago, Harry Kane. This evening was a largely calm affair, not least thanks to some wayward shooting, but there were enough signs to suggest that were Lloris to succumb injury, there would not have to be an accompanying sacrifice of playing style. The Dutchman’s natural starting position is probably not quite as advanced as that of the French captain, but it was noticeable that he was looking to keep close to his defenders in open play, and to work the ball short. Mauricio Pochettino should have few qualms in calling upon him again.
There has been much handwringing, ever since the days of Berbatov and Keane, over Tottenham’s attacking options. Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe – and never let us forget the days of Sergei Rebrov – all have flickered and faded before departing for pastures new for significantly less money than the amount for which they came. It would be a signal lesson to the White Hart Lane hierarchy if the answer proved to have been patiently waiting in their academy set-up all along. Harry Kane has now been given his chance; but it is something of a double-edged sword. Spurs’ participation in Europe – six games and counting now, including trips to Cyprus, Serbia and now Greece – has meant more games and more opportunities, but it is running the risk of painting him into a corner. He risks falling into a rhythm of training towards midweek kick-offs, and building up understandings with the midweek team; and from the manager’s perspective, of being the go-to man in what, in all honesty, is probably the team’s third-highest priority competition at this stage. Once again tonight, he looked Spurs’ best striking option. His instinct is not always to look for a shot, in the manner of someone like Defoe; but he keeps on scoring, and was in the right place to nod home Townsend’s excellent cross three minutes before half time. Surely it is only a matter of time before he gets the nod domestically.
For the first half hour or so at least, this game was not the gung-ho and glory of these teams’ last meeting, but there was at least some evidence of manager Mauricio Pochettino’s promised high press. That may have been as a result of Spurs feeling more inclined to push forward in the belief that Asteras would not offer the same counter-attacking threat as many in the Premier League (a belief which took something of a blow in the second half); but either way, it was a heartening sight for Spurs fans. Andros Townsend, Erik Lamela and Harry Kane all looked to snap into their opponents from the opening stages, while Christian Eriksen sat back a bit more in an effort to help out Dembélé and Stambouli in central midfield and start attacks from deeper. Having said that, the goals came from the perhaps more old-fashioned routes of a penalty followed by a cross and six yard header; but that may in part have been attributable to the difficult pitch, which was showing significant signs of scuffing up from midway through the first half. In the end, despite what is a worrying habit of concentration lapses in defence, this was a fairly comfortable victory for Spurs – their first in Greece, and their opponents’ first home defeat in Europe – and they should be confident of progression.
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