Football Features

Olympiacos 2-2 Tottenham: Winners and losers as Spurs surrender another two-goal away lead

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:55, 18 September 2019

Tottenham Hotspur kicked off their Champions League campaign with a 2-2 draw away to Olympiacos on Wednesday night.

Harry Kane and Lucas Moura gave Spurs a two-goal lead after half an hour but Daniel Podence pulled one back for the home side just before half-time. Mathieu Valbuena then drew Olympiacos level shortly after the break with no side able to find a winning goal.

So, who were the key winners and losers on the night?

Winner: Mathieu Valbuena

Despite some unfortunate defence moments, Olympiacos enjoyed a fine evening against Spurs and were well deserving of the point they earned. At the heart of their solid performance was veteran Mathieu Valbuena, so stranger to big European nights.

The 34-year-old was the creative spark for the home side, forming a good partnership with Daniel Podence to give the Spurs defence a tough evening. When Olympiacos went 2-0 down it was Valbuena who played in Podence to grab a goal back just before half-time.

And then, 10 minutes into the second half, the French magician drew his side level. It came from a Spurs mistake on the edge of their own area, but Valbuena found himself challenging for the ball and won a foul from Jan Vertonghen.

Unfazed by the three-minute VAR delay, Valbuena coolly converted the resulting penalty, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way. It was no less than the Frenchman deserve on an impressive night and, had Valbuena been a bit younger, there is every chance he could have influenced an Olympiacos win. But Spurs were relieved to see the 34-year-old substituted with 20 minutes to go, replaced by the fresher legs of Yassine Benzia.

Loser: Mauricio Pochettino

In Tottenham’s past two away games they have taken two-goal leads in the first half. However, in those two games they have also conceded just before half-time and went on to draw, first against Arsenal and now to Olympiacos.

Following last season’s final heartbreak, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will have wanted to get the new Champions League campaign off to a winning start. An away trip to Greece was always going to be a tough fixture, but Spurs would have expected to eventually pull through.

And that is what looked likely to happen when Spurs rode their luck early on before going 2-0 up after 30 minutes thanks to Kane and Lucas. But as they did against Arsenal, Spurs’ defence eventually crumbled under the pressure, allowing the home side back into the game before gifting an opportunity to equalise in conceding the penalty.

Next up for Spurs in a tricky Champions League group is a home game against five-time European champions Bayern Munich, in a match which could go some way in deciding who tops Group B.

Winner: Harry Kane

It would be fair to say that Spurs didn’t start too well in Greece on Wednesday night, and were perhaps fortunate not to have gone behind in the opening 25 minutes.

But they took the lead midway through the first half, when Harry Kane decided to take control. Picking up the ball on the right side of the box, Kane made his way towards the penalty area, running at Yassine Meriah.

Skipping past the first tackle, Kane was caught second time around just inside the area, earning his side a penalty. The Englishman stepped up and blasted the ball down the middle, returning to goalscoring ways from the spot after his miss against Kosovo.

It was Kane’s 15th goal in the Champions League, coming in his 20th appearance. Only Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roberto Soldado have reached that landmark in fewer games than Kane, with both doing so in 19 appearances.

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Loser: Christian Eriksen

There’s no denying the quality a player of Christian Eriksen’s stature possesses, and the Dane is so often the difference for Spurs.

But on Wednesday evening, Eriksen had a game to forget, really looking lost on the Karaiskakis turf and far from the midfielder linked with Real Madrid and Manchester United in the summer.

The Dane had an unusually average passing accuracy of 78.33% and lost possession 22 times, more than any other player on the pitch, including one costly moment.

Although Vertonghen was the one to commit the foul, Eriksen must take a portion of the blame for Olympiacos’ penalty, being far too nonchalant on the edge of his own area and losing possession.

Winner: Daniel Podence

Alongside Valbuena, Daniel Podence was a constant thorn in Tottenham’s side, working the right flank for most of the match. Using pace and tight control of the ball, the 23-year-old was Olympiacos’ biggest threat, eager to get onto the end of Valbuena’s game-dictating passes.

It was that exact combination which saw Olympiacos pull a goal back just before half-time, with Podence and Valbuena playing a one-two with the latter running through space into the box. There was still some work to be done with the shot, but the Portuguese winger fired a low effort across Hugo Lloris’ goal into the bottom left corner of the net.

Podence continued to cause problems for Spurs in the second half, giving Ben Davies a torrid time, completing five take-ons.

Winner: Lucas Moura

Lucas Moura was Tottenham’s hero in the Champions League last season, scoring a hat-trick in their dramatic semi-final second-leg win over Ajax to secure a place in the Madrid final. But his performance was somehow not enough to earn him a place in the starting XI for that final, only being brought on by Mauricio Pochettino in the final half an hour with Spurs chasing the game.

The start of the new Champions League campaign saw Lucas starting once more, and he repaid the faith with a thunderbolt of a strike to double Spurs’ lead.

Receiving the ball from Ben Davies on the edge of the area, Lucas took one touch and fired the shot past the goalkeeper into the back of the net – the type of finish Spurs fans are beginning to get used to when it comes to the Brazilian. It also came just after Olympiacos had threatened to equalise, and should have given Spurs a bit more breathing space after a tough start.