Good and bad as young Spurs get taste of Europe

LONDON • It was not a masterpiece, by any means, but it was an encouraging sign that the school of young proteges Mauricio Pochettino has gathered under his tutelage at Tottenham Hotspur is coming to terms with the modern art of European competition, and all of the contrasts between light and shade that it entails.

The light came not just in the form of Nacer Chadli's penalty - giving Tottenham that nerve-settling away goal on Thursday and the slight edge in a finely balanced 1-1 Europa League last-32 tie before the return at White Hart Lane next week - but in the shape of his side's resistance to a late onslaught by Fiorentina.

A lesser side would have crumbled after Federico Bernardeschi's deflected equaliser. A lesser Spurs, certainly.

As for the shade, that was brought by Dele Alli, the 19-year-old who was lucky not to be dismissed after half an hour for kicking out at Nenad Tomovic as the Serb was lying prone on the floor. For some reason, referee Felix Zwayer deemed it worthy only of a yellow card.

The home side were further incensed when Spurs were awarded a soft penalty shortly afterwards as Ben Davies went down under minimal contact from Tomovic, with Chadli scoring from the penalty.

Pochettino ducked the Alli issue by suggesting that he had not seen what happened, but accepted that Europe represents a steep learning curve for a player only eight months out of League One.

"We need to look at the video and try to teach him," the Argentinian said.

"He is young and so he has a lot to learn about (elite) football."

He made six changes to the side who beat Manchester City on Sunday and later insisted that, if Tottenham - they play Crystal Palace in the FA Cup fifth round tomorrow - are to challenge for more than one trophy this season, he will need to keep rotating his team.

"We have a strong squad to try to fight for every competition, we need to use all of the squad," he said. "Six changes from the City game and I'm happy... We have big motivation."

Juergen Klopp, on the other hand, was displeased with his team's performance, after they could only settle for a 0-0 draw with Augsburg on his return to Germany after becoming Liverpool's manager.

"Augsburg will come to Liverpool, they will defend and play for the counter-attack," said the German. "We know an away goal would have been good. We didn't get it, so now we've got to go for it in Liverpool."

He criticised elements of his team's display as they fell short of the heights reached in Sunday's 6-0 victory over Aston Villa.

"My problem is with our quality, we should do better but I have to be patient," he said.

Daniel Sturridge had Liverpool's best chance in the second half, but he failed to capitalise in what was just his third game back from injury.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2016, with the headline 'Good and bad as young Spurs get taste of Europe'. Print Edition | Subscribe