Tottenham exit Europa League as leading lights Alli, Kane lose it vs. Gent
LONDON -- Three thoughts from Tottenham's 2-2 draw with Gent, which sees the Premier League side lose 3-2 on aggregate and drop out of the Europa League.
1. Alli, Kane cost Tottenham in Europa League exit
Tottenham's European season is over, and while Jeremy Perbet's goal to make it 2-2 was the felling blow, the damage was wreaked by Spurs' pair of undoubted leading lights. First came a Harry Kane own goal and then the total loss of control that led to Dele Alli's deserved red card. At least Kane's mistake was accidental.
Before the match, manager Mauricio Pochettino had stated that he can tell whether his team will play well after just 50 seconds. It was a hypothesis that in this game proved to be quite wrong.
The manager must have been heartened that Tottenham set about their task briskly, with Kyle Walker's overlaps from his right-wing-back position causing Gent some serious trouble almost from the kickoff. The Belgians' left flank was an obvious weakness that Spurs were pushing against and a touchline collision of two defenders allowed Christian Eriksen far too much time and space to score the first goal in the 10th minute.
Even when Eriksen slightly overran the ball, he still had room to reset himself. Gent goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic staying rooted to the goal line made the Denmark international's task yet easier. That should have set Spurs up for something approaching easy progress, but 10 minutes later came the first calamity.
Perhaps distracted by an errant award of a corner, Tottenham defended a Danijel Milicevic corner sloppily and the end result was Kane -- the club's talisman no less -- scoring an own goal, the third of his otherwise glittering Tottenham career.
Then came Alli's far more disgraceful blotting of the copybook in the 39th minute. Red mist descended after Alli felt he had been fouled by Brecht Dejaegere. The result was a wild, reckless hack. Only Dejaegere's shinpads prevented serious injury to the defender, though he would leave the field in the second half with his neon yellow sock stained blood-red.
Alli, with Tottenham fans misguidedly clapping him off, sloped down the tunnel, his manager shaking his head in disbelief at the meltdown his pair of star men had suffered.
Down to 10 men for almost an hour, Tottenham gave it as good as they could once they had recovered from that double dose of shellshock. Kane failed to make amends with three chances just before the hour, first driving wide, next getting the ball stuck under his feet and then heading a Walker pass over.
It was from a Walker surge and Eriksen flick that Spurs found their way back into the game when playing the ball into the path of Victor Wanyama. The Kenya international thrashed the ball into the net and Spurs at last found momentum with a full half hour to go.
As Gent were pushed back into desperate defending, it was easy to forget that Spurs were a man down, especially after Son Heung-Min came on for Ben Davies and injected some much-needed zest. On the sidelines, Pochettino agonised as half-chances came and went, but the big opportunity simply did not come.
Then, just as in the first leg, Perbet scored the crucial goal and sent disgruntled Tottenham fans billowing to the exit.
2. Spurs' Wembley woes continue
Wembley was sold out, a product of cheap tickets sold at £10 for adults and £5 for children. Ahead of next season, when the national stadium becomes Tottenham's home for the 2017-18 campaign, the club are doing their best to get fans used to the idea of trekking across North London.
Whether the team could turn their form around on the hallowed turf was the big talking point ahead of the match. Losing to Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco in this season's doomed Champions League campaign is no disgrace in itself, especially considering the Ligue 1 leaders' performance at Manchester City this week, but it is little stretch to wonder how different matters might have been at White Hart Lane.
The old place used to seethe with atmosphere on the big European nights. Memories of Spurs' run to the quarterfinals in 2010-11 are still relatively fresh in the mind. Wembley is where Tottenham had suffered six defeats in seven matches since winning the 2008 League Cup final against Chelsea. Only CSKA Moscow, in December's final Champions League group game, had been beaten, and that match hardly mattered at all, considering that Spurs have now perished at their first hurdle in the Europa League.
And though this game was in fact drawn, it felt like another defeat to add to the list. Few Tottenham fans will look forward to next season at Wembley.
3. Gent show their mettle
Somewhat like Leicester City, though in not nearly so perilous a league position as England's fallen champions -- Gent are eighth in the Belgian league -- just about all of the visitors' eggs were in this particular basket. And they will remain there. Gent's players staged long celebrations with a contingent of 7,000 fans who had travelled over the English Channel.
Last week in Belgium had shown their team were not to be underestimated, as had last campaign's run to the Champions League knockout stages, and having rocked back on their heels after Eriksen's opener, their response was admirable and eventually incisive.
Kane might have scored an own goal, but he was forced into doing so by the excellence of Gent's corner routine. Milicevic's kick was boomed to the far post, and Stefan Mitrovic's powered header and the attentions of Moses Simon forced Kane into his error.
While Tottenham created several chances in the second half, Gent always held their own latent attacking threat, particularly from set pieces. More importantly, they held their discipline while at the same time frustrating Spurs into the errors of judgement that cost them their European season before Perbet's crucial, clinical finish.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.