Valiant Spurs prospects get a valuable lesson from brilliant Barcelona
NextGen Series: Tottenham 0 Barcelona 2
A goal in each half from Sandro Ramirez secured Barcelona victory at White Hart Lane on Thursday evening, as Spurs’ Under-19s came face to face with the standards they must attempt to emulate.
Given that Catalonia’s La Masia academy is one of the most heralded in the world, it should come as no surprise that the Spanish visitors showed many desired qualities such as technique, pace, composure and vision.
However Tottenham also pride themselves on instilling the ‘correct’ ethos into their youth teams - although on this occasion they were defeated.
Barca defender Frank Bagnack, one of many players to impress on the evening, nearly opened the scoring after 15 minutes when he strode forward from central defence to meet a quickly-taken free-kick but curled just wide of Lawrence Vigouroux’s goal.
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The Londoner was beaten four minutes later though, when Sandro notched his first of the evening. Barca’s prodigiously talented right winger Adama Traore, who has drawn comparisons with Lionel Messi for his rapid progress at youth level, skipped down the flank and past the Spurs captain Kevin Stewart before putting the ball on a plate for Sandro to slot home.
Spurs needed their own flair attackers to come to the fore - and in Alex Pritchard they boasted one of the most dangerous players on the pitch for the first 45 minutes.
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After picking up the ball from Laste Dombaxe, the left winger shot wide and in doing so galvanised the hosts, with Souleymane Coulibaly twice going close in the following minutes.
Two turning points arrived before the break when, after being played in by a clever pass from Nabil Bentaleb, the Ivorian youngster Coulibaly turned sharply in the area but should have done better than fire a shot straight at goalkeeper Joeph Fabrice Ondoa.
Then, on 45 minutes, Pritchard once again showed quick feet to torment right-back Elohor Godswill Ekpolo before curling a shot which flew past Ondoa, but, agonisingly, rebounded off the crossbar.
Just as Spurs began to build some momentum the half-time whistle sounded - and the junior Lilywhites rarely looked like replicating that form after the break.
Youth boss Alex Inglethorpe introduced forward Shaquille Coulthirst in place of the ineffectual Giancarlo Gallifuoco, which pushed Pritchard into a more central position and Bentaleb to a deeper midfield role.
Neither talent prospered after the reshuffle, and Barcelona nearly doubled their lead soon after when a quick break, following loose control from Coulibaly, allowed Alain Richard Ebwelle a run at goal - but the exciting left-sided forward shot wide.
A superb piece of control saw Ebwelle create space in the penalty area on the hour-mark but once again his finishing let him down and Vigouroux watched his effort fly harmlessly wide.
Ebwelle then turned provider immediately afterward by back-heeling to Sandro, who curled a shot inches wide of the post as Barcelona took greater control of proceedings.
Their second goal finally arrived when a direct pass caught the Tottenham defence unaware and allowed Sandro a clear run at goal, before he coolly slotted past Vigouroux to all but finish the contest.
While Tottenham had turned to their star man Pritchard in search of inspiration in the first half, the team faded as he grew tired in the second period and a series of substitutions did little to liven their play.
Ruben Lameiras almost forced a consolation for the home side as his corner was flicked onto the bar by Kenneth McEvoy, before a shot of his own was bravely blocked by Pol Calvet.
In truth Barcelona were worthy winners, although Spurs will take heart from the spell in the first half where, but for better finishing and greater luck, they could have entered the interval with the lead.
However for the home players this was mostly a valuable learning experience - and for the bumper 8,887 crowd it was an enjoyable chance to possibly brag, one day in the future, about having seen one or more Barcelona stars before they became household names.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vigouroux, A McQueen, Stewart, Dombaxe, Ball (Lameiras 75), Veljkovic, McEvoy, Coulibaly (Onomah 66), Bentaleb (Ogilvie 75), Gallifuoco (Coulthirst 51), Pritchard 20.
Subs not used: McGee, D McQueen, Winks.
Barcelona: Ondoa, Ekpolo, Costa, Bagnack, Quintilla (Gafarot 87), Samper, Adama (Cristian 77), Quesada (Dabunski 77), Sandro (Huertas 87), Calvet, Ebwelle (Olivan 82).
Subs not used: Tienda, Rier.
Referee: Mr W Barratt