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Spurs rue missed opportunities as Fiorentina earn a draw in Europa League clash

21:55 19 February 2015

The two goalscorers, Roberto Soldado (left) and Jose Maria Basanta, battle for the ball at White Hart Lane

The two goalscorers, Roberto Soldado (left) and Jose Maria Basanta, battle for the ball at White Hart Lane

EMPICS Sport

Tottenham are rueing their failure to capitalise on a perfect start to their last-32 Europa League tie with Fiorentina after losing the lead in a 1-1 draw in the first leg at White Hart Lane.

Spurs went ahead through Roberto Soldado’s volley in just the sixth minute, and they went on to dominate the first 30 minutes, creating a number of other good opportunities.

However, Fiorentina equalised as Jose Maria Basanta struck following a free kick and, although Nacer Chadli hit the crossbar at the end of a first half in which Tottenham had 10 shots on goal – five of them on target – they were unable to regain their lead.

Instead the Viola, who sit fourth in Serie A and are now unbeaten in 10 European away games, will take their precious away goal back to Italy for next Thursday’s return leg – which comes just three days before Spurs’ Capital One Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley.

Tottenham had enjoyed a rare and much-needed 10-day break before this game. But, with six matches to come in 17 days, Mauricio Pochettino made six changes from the side that had faced Liverpool at Anfield in the previous outing.

Harry Kane, Erik Lamela, Mousa Dembele and Ryan Mason were all left on the bench, with Pochettino opting to bring in Soldado, Andros Townsend, Nacer Chadli and Paulinho instead.

Ben Davies was given his first start in five games at left-back, and Federico Fazio got the nod over Eric Dier, having won the Europa League with Sevilla last season.

Spurs got off to the ideal start with Davies and Soldado combining to free Chadli, who was denied by the visiting keeper inside the box.

But, moments later, Paulinho’s corner kick was met by a well-taken volley from Soldado, who struck the ball into the bottom right corner.

The chances kept coming and the lively Townsend scampered down the right before crossing beyond the back post. Chadli pulled the ball back to Christian Eriksen, who lined up a shot from his favourite position just outside the box but fired over the bar.

Eriksen’s deflected cross from the right then dropped to Soldado, whose acrobatic volley was straight at Ciprian Tatarusanu, while Paulinho sent a 25-yard shot at the visiting keeper.

Townsend caused further problems, cutting in from the right and seeing a low shot deflected just wide of the right post as Tottenham passed the 30-minute mark in complete control.

The question was whether they could take full advantage of their dominance and get a crucial second goal – but instead, Fiorentina equalised.

Soldado was beaten by Joaquin on the by-line and cynically felled his fellow Spaniard from behind. Matias Fernandez took an ambitious shot at goal from a wide angle with the resulting free kick and, although Hugo Lloris kept it out at his near post, the ball struck Mario Gomez and dropped to Basanta, who forced the ball home.

Tottenham came agonisingly close to an equaliser just before the interval as Kyle Walker crossed for Soldado, whose flicked header was palmed away by a diving Tatarusanu. It fell for Chadli six yards out but he hit the bar and the ball came down an inch short of the goal-line.

Spurs looked the more dangerous side again at the start of the second half, with Eriksen seeing a shot blocked and Davies and Chadli both delivering low crosses from the left – only to find no-one in the middle to take advantage.

Townsend sent a powerful effort narrowly wide from outside the box, but Spurs were unable to regain their lead and, after 65 minutes, Pochettino swapped Chadli for his 23-goal man Kane, who took up a No10 role behind Soldado.

Gomez attacked the left side of the Spurs box and shot over, while Paulinho was denied by Tatarusanu at the other end and Soldado headed at the keeper from Townsend’s cross.

Pochettino introduced Lamela and Mason, but it was Fernandez who came closest to a late winner, shooting wide of Lloris’ goal with a low effort.

Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Bentaleb, Paulinho (Mason 83), Townsend (Lamela 73), Eriksen, Chadli (Kane 65), Soldado

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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