Jan Vertonghen does his best impression of the eagle on Lazio's badge. - Giuseppe Bellini
A transcendent Hugo Lloris kept Spurs in an otherwise craptastic match at the Olimpico in Rome.
So, happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Are you full of turkey and oyster stuffing? Did all the overeating and alcohol make you sleepy? Did you skip watching this match to take a nap on your parents' couch? If so, you made a good decision. But for the stellar play of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris throughout and an incorrect offsides call against Gareth Bale in the first ten minutes, there wasn't really much worth watching in today's game in Rome.
The match started off under a cloud, as news that Tottenham supporters had been attacked by Lazio Ultras wielding knives, bats, broken bottles and knuckledusters at a bar in the Campo de Fiori in the early hours of Thursday morning. Despite the brutality of the night before, Spurs' visiting support was in full voice throughout the match.
If only Tottenham had given them more to sing about. A gorgeous through ball from Tom Carroll to Gareth Bale early in the match was incorrectly ruled offsides. Tottenham pressured often throughout the first half, winning the lion's share of the corners but without ever threatening the Lazio goal. A curling Bale cross from the right (inverted wingarz!) nearly went in but for the parry of Lazio keeper Federico Marchetti.
Lazio employed a smothering defensive press throughout the match, looking to counter at every opportunity. Several times Lazio strikers got in behind the Tottenham high line, but the aggressive, confident play of Lloris kept the home side from scoring.
There were some bright spots in this match. Emmanuel Adebayor looked composed on the ball, Tom Carroll played reasonably well, and as mentioned, Hugo Lloris had an incredible game. Though he saw little of the ball, the return of Moussa Dembele also seemed to buoy the away side. Dembele's steadying presence will be welcome in the Spurs midfield.
There was a lot to complain about as well. Clint Dempsey played as though he was wearing ski boots, Jan Vertonghen looked out-of-sorts, and Kyle Walker, when not bathed in blood in the style of Stephen King's Carrie (he spent several minutes at the end of the first half changing his entire kit, as a bloody nose had completely soaked the first one), seemed overmatched on the defensive right.
In the end, there wasn't much here worth watching. Andre Villas-Boas' Spurs side is still a work in progress. A final match at White Hart Lane against Panathinaikos awaits Spurs; a draw or better in that match, and the team secures passage to the knockout rounds of the Europa League. Spurs play West Ham at home this weekend; let's hope a more cohesive and effective Tottenham side emerges from the tunnel under the West Stand on Sunday.