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Under-strength Spurs beaten in Europa Conference League

Maximilian Wittek volleys home the winning goal as Vitesse Arnhem topple Nuno Espirito Santo's much-changed Tottenham

21 October, 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Europa Conference League Group Stage

VITESSE ARNHEM 1 (Wittek 78)
TOTTENHAM 0

THE question whether Tottenham have the ability to fight on all fronts produced a negative answer tonight (Thursday) as a side made up of first-team benchwarmers turned in an abject performance against Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.

This Europa Conference League defeat by a solitary second half goal from Maximilian Wittek may have been Tottenham’s first loss in the competition – but it means Spurs now sit third in the group with three games to go.

On this showing, manager Nuno Espirito Santo will need to create a better blend of regulars and wannabes to progress into the knockout stages.

Speaking after the game, Nuno pointed out that the winning goal came following an extremely questionable free-kick – one of a number that whistle happy referee Harm Osmers got wrong in a scrappy and physical second half.

“It was a tough match against a good team,” said the Tottenham boss. “There were some moments where we did well but we learned some details.

“In attack we could do more and we should finish the actions. We had good situations. Their goal came from a foul which I think can be discussed, but there should be more cover at the edge of the box.

“The Europa Conference League is like this, there are always tough moments. We have got two home games which I truly believe can help us solve the group.”

Nuno also defended the decision to leave every player who had featured in the Premier League victory against Newcastle on Sunday at home, adding: “We have players who work hard and deserve matches. The Conference League is a chance for them to get minutes.”

This was very much a Tottenham B team meeting a competent side who are sitting sixth in the Eredivisie – but such an excuse looks flimsy.

Despite enjoying much of the ball in the first half, Spurs failed to create any real chances. When Arnhem did get hold of possession, they looked more determined and ruthless than their meek opponents.

The home side came out stronger in the second period, and Spurs were only allowed to string a small number of passes together deep in their own half – whenever they attempted to venture forward, Arnhem harried and harassed, and Nuno’s charges were comprehensively outfought.

It was a particularly disappointing show from those creatives who feel they should be in the first team. Dele Alli frustrated, his attempts at flicks and tricks all too easily snuffed out and his decision making did not match his experience.

Giovani Lo Celso, playing centrally and tasked with being the heartbeat of the Tottenham team, played without passion. The Argentina international too frequently failed to offer himself up for a pass or an outlet, and seemed content to trot through the 90 minutes.

Tottenham’s only stand outs where Joe Rodon, who was typically solid at the back, and Bryan Gil, who tried to rouse those around him but with little luck. Gil’s 25-yard strike early in the second half crashed off the crossbar, and was the closest Spurs came to scoring.

This was desperately poor stuff and won’t do anything for the confidence of squad players who failed the audition. With one draw, one win and now one defeat, Nuno has no room for any more errors if Tottenham are to play in Europe after Christmas.

Vitesse Arnhem: Schubert, Doekhi, Bazoer, Rasmussen, Dasa, Bero, Tronstad, Wittek (Hajek, 87), Frederiksen (Buitink, 85), Darfalou, Openda (Oroz, 90+1)
Substitutes not used: Houwen, van Haveren, von Moos, Gboho, Domgjoni, Yapi, Vroegh, Cornelisse, Huisman

Spurs: Gollini, Tanganga, Rodon, Sanchez, Davies, Winks, Lo Celso, Gil, Alli, Bergwijn, Scarlett (Markanday, 75)
Substitutes not used: Austin, White, John, Fagan-Walcott, Clarke, Cesay, Matthew Craig, Michael Craig, Lyons-Foster

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