Honours even again as Spurs come from behind to take a point in Slovenia
Europa League: Maribor 1 Tottenham 1
Tottenham are still searching for their first win in the Europa League as they were held to a draw for the third game in succession in Group J.
Indeed, it could have been worse for Spurs as they trailed 1-0 at half-time in Slovenia.
Glfyi Sigurdsson equalised in the second period, but Andre Villas-Boas’ side remain third in their group behind Lazio and Maribor, with plenty of work to do if they are to qualify for the knockouts.
Spurs were missing a host of players due to injury, including Mousa Dembele and Emmanuel Adebayor, while Michael Dawson missed out through illness and Gareth Bale was absent due to the birth of his first child.
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Kyle Naughton came into the side at left-back, with Jan Vertonghen moving to centre-back and Andros Townsend replaced Bale, and Hugo Lloris continued his run of games in Europe.
Spurs’ previous European outing had been a drab, lacklustre 1-1 draw at Panathinaikos – and their trip to Slovenia was little better.
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The Lilywhites had an early chance as a William Gallas-esque defensive header dropped kindly in the box, but Sigurdsson skewed his effort badly wide.
Maribor went on to edge the possession for the first 15 minutes as Tottenham struggled to string passes together, but the hosts were similarly unable to create any chances of note.
It took half an hour for either goalkeeper to get a sniff of action as Sigurdsson met Tom Huddlestone’s free-kick with a header on goal, but it was comfortably saved by Jasmin Handanovic.
Sandro sent a 25-yard effort whistling wide and then headed Huddlestone’s chipped pass down to Jermain Defoe, who sent an awkward volley looping harmlessly over the bar.
At the other end, Ales Mejac tried his luck from distance and briefly worried Lloris with a swerving 30-yard shot, but it swung safely away from the right-hand post.
With precious little quality on show from either side, the game looked set to be goalless at the break – but Maribor suddenly took the lead in the 44th minute.
Townsend bit off more than he could chew as he tried to dribble his way through the midfield and conceded possession. Moments later Dejan Mezga was entering the box, waltzing his way around a woefully static Huddlestone, dinking the ball past Lloris and watching as Robert Beric forced the ball over the line from close range.
That proved to be Townsend’s final contribution as Villas-Boas introduced 22-year-old Yago Falque at the interval.
However, it was Maribor who had the first glimpse of goal in the second period as Marcos Tavarez’s low effort was saved by Lloris.
There was little sign of an improvement from Spurs and they continued to labour until the hour-mark. But, just as suddenly as Maribor had taken the lead, the Lilywhites struck to equalise.
The opening was initially well-worked as Sigurdsson freed Aaron Lennon on the left of the penalty area. His cross was deflected into the path of Defoe, whose powerful shot was somwhow blocked, but Sigurdsson was on hand to finish.
The home side could have retaken the lead four minutes later as Naughton found himself outnumbered and Agim Ibraimi took advantage to run free into the box, but he shot into the side netting.
Spurs had a strong appeal for a penalty in the 72nd minute as Naughton went on an enterprising run and seemed to be tripped, but the referee decided that he had gone down easily and booked him for diving.
Vertonghen nearly supplied with the visitors with a late winner, driving a 30-yard effort narrowly wide, but Maribor banked a point which keeps them in second spot above Spurs ahead of the return match at White Hart Lane in two weeks’ time.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen, Naughton, Huddlestone, Sandro (Livermore 84), Lennon, Sigurdsson (Dempsey 75), Townsend (Falque 45), Defoe
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