Hugo Lloris believes Tottenham’s Champions League comeback win over Marseille highlighted the growing personality among his team-mates, but Paul Merson warns they cannot keep relying on fightbacks.
Antonio Conte’s side grabbed an unlikely last-gasp 2-1 victory at the Stade Velodrome to reach the Champions League last 16 as Group D winners after a nerve-jangling climax.
The Londoners, who needed only to avoid defeat to go through, endured a first-half siege and trailed to Chancel Mbemba’s header in stoppage time before the break. However, Clement Lenglet proved to be Tottenham’s saviour when he headed in his first goal for the club in the 54th minute to level.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg then sealed the victory in stoppage time to put Tottenham top of the group and leave Marseille, who at one stage of the evening sat top, in fourth spot and out of Europe.
Stoppage-time drama for Spurs this season
- Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham – injury-time equaliser from Kane
- Tottenham 2-1 Fulham – Richarlison injury-time goal ruled out by VAR for offside
- Sporting 2-0 Totteham – Paulinho and Arthur Gomes score for Sporting in stoppage time
- Tottenham 3-2 Frankfurt – Kane misses injury time pen and Lloris has to make save from Faride Alidou
- Tottenham 1-1 Sporting – ruled out Kane winner in stoppage time by VAR
- Bournemouth 2-3 Tottenham – injury-time winner from Bentancur
- Marseille 1-2 Tottenham – Tottenham weather a first-half siege before snatching an unlikely 2-1 victory at Marseille to reach the Champions League last 16 as Group D winners after a nerve-jangling conclusion
“To be honest, we expected that type of game. The Stade Velodrome is a very difficult place to deal with and I think we showed great personality,” Lloris said.
“Clement (Lenglet) scored a very important goal in France, in front of the French people. The second goal from Pierre (Hojbjerg) confirmed things for the group. We didn’t play well during the first half. Maybe we didn’t know what would happen if we attack. It wasn’t good for us to play this type of first half.
“We speak in the locker room – we start the second half with much more personality and aggressive. We play a very good second half.
“It was a tough night, a great battle and even more psychological battle because we could feel in the first half a team was playing without the fear to lose, it was Marseille, and in the second half we face a team with the fear to lose.”
Merson: Spurs through but must improve
It was a result that barely looked possible in the opening 45 minutes as Spurs appeared dazed and confused by Marseille’s relentless onslaught.
Spurs, who lost forward Heung-Min Son to a head injury in a torrid opening period, were a different proposition after the interval and took control after Lenglet’s equaliser. Hojbjerg struck the crossbar for the visitors but Marseille should have scored late on when Sead Kolasinac somehow missed an open goal with a header.
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson believes Tottenham will have to improve if they are to progress any further in the competition having reached the last-16 stage.
“Spurs couldn’t put three passes together in the first half,” Merson told Soccer Special. “As soon as they started putting more passes together the game opened up for them and they were a threat. They managed the game well.
“Tottenham did very well in the second half but when you get to the last 16 you can’t keep giving teams head starts. It will catch up with you sooner than later.
“When the shackles are off and the fear factor goes out of the game, Spurs have some good players who can move the ball about very quickly. But they don’t do that, they sit back. Kane was literally 35 yards from his own goal in the first half. They didn’t have an outlet; they’ve got to take a chance sometimes. It’s too negative for me.
“You can’t keep giving teams head starts. They’ve been fortunate in a couple of games like Bournemouth on Saturday and again today against an average team in Marseille.”
Son ‘feeling better’ but head injury to be assessed
Tottenham will wait until Wednesday to assess the extent of the injury suffered by Heung-Min Son in the Champions League win at Marseille.
The South Korean went off in the first half at the Stade Velodrome after a collision with Chancel Mbemba and looked very wobbly as he left the pitch.
Spurs went on to book their place in the last 16 with a last-gasp 2-1 win as second-half goals from Clement Lenglet and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg overturned Mbemba’s first-half opener.
But the injury to Son is a worry, especially with the Premier League clash with Liverpool coming up on Sunday, while he could have worries over the forthcoming World Cup.
Assistant head coach Cristian Stellini, standing in for the banned Antonio Conte, said: “In this moment we don’t know. We have to wait for a medical assessment. Sonny feels better now. I saw him in the dressing room, he celebrated with us.
“In this moment we don’t know. We have to wait for a medical assessment and we have to wait until tomorrow.
“We are not sure if he is concussed. It is Son’s face. His eye is a bit swollen.”
Spurs’ place in the last 16 was not guaranteed until Hojbjerg won it with the last kick of the game to seal top spot in Group D.
With Marseille needing a win to go through and a defeat knocking Spurs out, it was an evening of jeopardy for the Premier League side in a hostile environment in Provence.
Conte, who celebrates one year in charge on Wednesday, was forced to watch from the stands due to his red card after the VAR controversy against Sporting Lisbon last week, which meant Tottenham’s qualification fate went down to the final game.
And the Italian was put through the wringer as his side produced a listless first-half performance, deservedly falling behind to Mbemba’s header.
The second half was a different story, though, and Lenglet put Spurs back in control with a header of his own in the 54th minute.
But with Marseille needing just one goal to send them out, it was a nervy evening until Hojbjerg’s late intervention.
And it was not an evening Conte enjoyed.
Stellini added: “I had the possibility to talk with Antonio. He was very tired. He lived the game in the crowd, it’s not normal.
“Maybe he spent more energy in the stands than he normally spends on the touchline.
“It was very difficult the first half. In the difficulties, we didn’t lose our minds. We stayed in the match. It was terrible the goal we conceded because from a corner they took it quickly and we were not prepared.
“It is an important lesson for the future. But in the second half, something changed and we spoke in the dressing about the energy we need in the second half and the way we have to press them and counter the game.
“In this type of stadium and this type of match, a knockout, it is not very easy.
“The stadium was very hot in the first half and sometimes it is normal to give the possibility to the opponent to play, to use the energy you have in the second half. It could also be a strategy.
“We need to try to play all the 90 minutes in the same level.”
Which teams are already through to the last 16?
- Bayern Munich*
- Club Brugge
- Inter Milan
- Manchester City*
- Paris Saint-Germain
- Real Madrid
*indicates sides who will definitely be seeded in the last-16 draw
Tottenham have three more fixtures ahead of the World Cup. They face Liverpool on Super Sunday this weekend, live on Sky Sports from 4pm; kick-off 4.30pm. They will then face Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday November 9 before their final Premier League match against Leeds on Saturday November 12; kick-off 3pm.
Marseille have two further Ligue 1 fixtures ahead of the break – they face Lyon on Sunday before a trip to Monaco on Sunday November 13.
The draw for the last 16 of the Champions League will be held at 11am on Monday, November 7, at the House of European Football at UEFA headquarters in Switzerland.