Spurs exit NextGen Series after eight-goal thriller against Sporting Lisbon
PUBLISHED: 23:39 20 March 2013 | UPDATED: 07:36 21 March 2013
NextGen Series quarter-final:
Tottenham 3 Sporting Lisbon 5 (after extra-time)
A 45-yard wonder-strike capped an eight-goal thriller on Wednesday evening as Tottenham’s Under-19s were eliminated at the last eight stage from Europe’s premier youth club football competition.
Sporting Lisbon led 3-1 with 10 minutes to go in the Next Generation Series quarter-final at Leyton Orient’s Matchroom Stadium, but the Londoners scored and then equalised dramatically in the 95th minute.
However the visitors regained their lead early in extra-time through substitute Luka Stojanovic, before the impressive Fabrice Fokobo stunned the east London crowd by exhibiting a superb technique to drill a shot home from just inside the halfway line and settle the tie once and for all.
A frantic opening 10 minutes of the contest set the pace for what was to follow as Sporting took the lead before almost immediately being pegged back.
Portugal Under-20 striker Alberto Coelho, more commonly known at Betinho, lobbed goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux after six minutes, having initially spun his marker smartly, before Nathan Oduwa made it 1-1.
The pacy winger showed good tenacity to win the ball back inside the opposition half, before Ruben Lamerias took over and played an inviting ball into the penalty area. Lone frontman Shaquile Coulthirst was off balance but it fell nicely to Oduwa, who powered home to level the scores.
The goal seemed to settle Spurs, whose midfield triangle passed the ball with purpose, and the Lilywhites might have taken the lead had Kenny McEvoy looked up rather than shoot when in a good position at a narrow angle minutes later.
However, clinical movement and finishing from Betinho put Lisbon back in front after 17 minutes as winger Ricardo Esgaio teased Spurs captain Kevin Stewart before whipping a ball to the near post for the lively forward to lose his marker and stab past Vigouroux.
The Tottenham stopper was an uncertain presence throughout the evening and two mistakes luckily went unpunished before half-time, with Iuri Medeiros twice missing from awkward angles after balls forward were not dealt with.
McEvoy, who has gained national media attention for his physical resemblance to fellow Spurs winger Gareth Bale but also runs in remarkably similar fashion to Aaron Lennon, spurned a chance from close range before the interval, although once again passing would seem to have been the better option.
Another error from Vigouroux gifted Lisbon a penalty after 64 minutes when he didn’t claim a ball into the box under pressure from Alexandre Guedes, who knocked the ball past him and was subsequently bundled over.
Ruben Semedo stepped up to send Vigouroux the wrong way in calm fashion as the Portuguese side established a two-goal lead which their overall play warranted.
Spurs academy director John McDermott made three changes to try and find a way back into tie as midfielder Filip Lesniak, forward Daniel Akindayeni and England Under-16 starlet Joshua Onomah all entered the fray.
Despite spells of possession, the London side struggled to mount efforts on goal until the lively Coulthirst was slipped in after 81 minutes and tripped over to hand them a lifeline.
Holding midfielder Laste Dombaxe’s stuttering run-up defied the cool nature of his penalty as he sent Mickael Meira the wrong way to set up a tense final eight minutes plus added time.
Attack-minded full-back Jack Barthram was inches away from playing in Coulthirst with a killer pass as they went in search of an equaliser, before McDermott sent on Roman Michael-Percil and Darren McQueen for the closing stages.
It proved an inspired move as, in the fifth minute of added time, Michael-Percil – incorrectly labelled as Leyton Orient midfielder Jimmy Smith on the teamsheet – pounced on Meira’s fumble to smash the ball home from 10 yards out.
While Sporting fans may justifiably question why there were five minutes of added time following a half with stoppages other than substitutions, the effort prompted jubilant scenes on the touchlines at Brisbane Road.
Tottenham’s joy was short-lived though as Luka Stojanovic put the Portuguese side back in front early in extra-time with a 20-yard shot that dipped in front of Vigouroux - although the keeper may again feel he could have done better to repel it.
Fokobo’s moment of magic then settled the content two minutes later as he volleyed into the top corner from all of 45 yards and, while Spurs battled on, they were unable to overcome a two-goal deficit for the second time on the evening.
While the night ended in defeat, there were positives for Tottenham with Milos Veljkovic, Barthram and Onomah all emerging with their reputations enhanced, while the team and management as a whole deserve credit for their measured and positive playing style over the two hours of football. Their youngsters will undoubtedly be better off for having experienced such a contest.
Tottenham Hotspur: Vigouroux, Barthram, Stewart, Veljkovic, Ball, Dombaxe, Lamerias, Bentaleb, McEvoy, Oduwa, Coulthirst.
Tottenham Hotspur subs: McEnef, Priestley, Lesniak, Onomah, Michael-Percil, McQueen, Akindayeni.
Follow Iain on Twitter at @IainLiddle.