KAA Gent 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0: Spurs have work to do after loss in Belgium
19:51 16 February 2017
Europa League round of 32, first leg: KAA Gent 1 (Perbet 59) Tottenham Hotspur 0
Tottenham Hotspur have work to do to progress past Gent in the Europa League after losing the first leg of their round of 32 tie in Belgium.
A poor first half from both sides saw little in the way of chances as each team struggled to keep hold of possession for long spells.
Tottenham appears to have come out of the traps well in the second half, but conceded a sloppy goal midway through to hand the Belgians the advantage.
Spurs named a strong side for the trip to Belgium, making just two changes from Saturday’s loss at Liverpool in the Premier League.
Christian Erisksen and Heung-Min Son both dropped to the bench, with Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko coming into the starting XI at their expense.
Gent almost took the lead inside the opening minute, but Moses Simon narrowly failed to connect with a low cross into the box from the right
Tottenham’s first chance came 10 minutes later when Dele Alli dragged his shot from the edge of the area narrowly wide of the left post.
The tale of the first half, though, was a bad one for the north Londoners, who were sloppy in possession.
Both Alli and Sissoko were intended to play in support of Kane, but instead were marooned out wide due to the formation deployed by manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The duo linked up in the 32nd minute, with Sissoko nodding a Ben Davies cross from the left to Alli on the edge of the box, but the ex-MK Dons man fired over the bar.
Chances were certainly few and far between for Tottenham in Gent, with Mousa Dembele next to try his luck in the 43rd minute.
However, the Belgian midfielder’s effort from a central location 20 yards out was straight at home keeper Lovre Kalinic, who comfortably saved.
Neither side could find a breakthrough at the Ghelamco Arena before the break as the first half ended goalless.
At the interval, Tottenham appeared to changes to a 3-1-4-2 formation, which yielded near immediate results.
Just four minutes into the second half, Spurs came the closest of either side to breaking the deadlock through Harry Kane.
The Tottenham forward’s snapshot from 10 yards clipped the outside of the post on its way wide after Alli had broke into the area to create the chance.
Little over a minute later, a chaotic period of play near the Gent box ended with Dembele shooting from 25 yards, with Kalinic only grasping the ball at the second attempt.
Despite the start to the second period by the north Londoners, it was Gent who took the lead in the 59th minute.
A Danijel Milicevic cutback from the edge of the six-yard box took a fortunate deflection off Eric Dier and into the path of Jeremy Perbet, who calmly slotted home.
Spurs nearly conceded a second with 19 minutes remaining, but mercifully Gent defender Stefan Mitrovic headed a corner over the bar at the back post.
Tottenham were indebted to captain Hugo Lloris five minutes later, who pushed a Milicevic shot onto the post after a swift counter-attack from the Belgians.
In the final 10 minutes, Spurs huffed and puffed as they looked for an equaliser and a crucial away goal.
Pochettino’s men were unable to find one, though, meaning they face an uphill task to progress with the second leg due to take place at Wembley next Thursday.
Before that, however, Tottenham have the small matter of an FA Cup fifth round tie at Championship club Fulham on Sunday.
Gent (3-4-2-1): Kalinic; Gigot, Mitrovic, Asare (Gershon 80); Foket, Dejaegere, Esiti, Saief; Simon (Kalu 74), Milicevic; Perbet (Coulibaly 75)
Subs: Rinne (GK), Neto, De Smet, Verstraete
Tottenham (4-1-4-1): Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Dier, Davies; Wanyama; Sissoko (Nkoudou 71), Winks (Eriksen 80), Dembele (Son 68), Alli; Kane
Subs: Vorm (GK), Trippier, Onomah, Wimmer
Referee: Benoit Bastien (France)