Fazio makes his Spurs debut in Europa League stalemate against Partizan Belgrade
19:51 18 September 2014
PA Archive/Press Association Images
Federico Fazio made his Tottenham debut and Benjamin Stambouli got his first start as Spurs began their Europa League group campaign with a goalless draw against Partizan Belgrade in Serbia.
Harry Kane hit the bar in the opening moments of the first half but that was as close as the Lilywhites came to a goal.
They failed to register a shot on target in the entire match, while the hosts only managed two of their own in a stalemate that lacked quality on a poor, bumpy surface.
There were 10 changes to the Spurs side that had lined up against Sunderland on Saturday, with Hugo Lloris the only survivor, keeping Michel Vorm on the bench again.
Having opened the scoring inside the opening two minutes on Wearside, Spurs nearly made the perfect start again as Jan Vertonghen flicked a corner to the far post, where Kane took a touch and hit the underside of the bar from an angle.
However, that proved to be a false dawn and the Lilywhites struggled to keep creating chances.
Fazio did well to head away a dangerous inswinging cross free-kick from Nikola Drincic as he ran back into his own six-yard box, and the Argentine then got out sharply to block a shot from Darko Lazovic on the edge of the box.
However, Fazio undermined his solid start with a bad mistake from a simple throw-in, misjudging the ball and getting caught under it, gifting Lazovic a shot inside the six-yard box, which was well blocked.
Stambouli was performing his task well, establishing a strong midfield base in tandem with Nabil Bentaleb and moving the ball forward quickly whenever possible.
However, Spurs were lacking creativity and movement in the final third – partly due to a bobbly pitch which made it difficult to put rapid, intricate passing moves together or beat a man.
There was more of the same after the interval, and Belgrade looked the more dangerous side after the restart.
With Ben Davies struggling at left-back and being beaten twice soon after the interval, Lloris had to dive to punch away a free-kick – and he then got down to save an inswinging cross which was heading for the bottom corner, but the sliding Lazovic was offside in front of him and the flag went up anyway.
Pochettino responded to Spurs’ general toothlessness by introducing Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado in place of the ineffective Andros Townsend and Paulinho.
Soldado nearly created a goal moments after coming on, but Kane was just unable to get his head on the Spaniard’s cross.
Lamela’s energy also helped to turn the tide in Tottenham’s favour for a few minutes, but Partizan threatened again and Davies scuffed a clearance to Sasa Ilic, who lashed a wild shot over the bar from just outside the box. A cross to the back post then found Ilic unmarked, but he headed over.
Partizan increased their efforts in the closing stages but were unable to really test Lloris and the game ended goalless.
Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Bentaleb, Stambouli (Capoue 72), Townsend (Lamela 60), Paulinho (Soldado 60), Lennon, Kane
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