Eric Dier highlights below-par midfield as Tottenham crumble at Inter
Two late goals gave Inter Milan all three points in their Champions League group-stage opener against Tottenham, winning 2-1. Spurs started badly and were lucky to go into the break with the scores level, but after a deflected shot from Christian Eriksen had given them the lead early in the second half, they began to look more comfortable. Tottenham had several good opportunities to increase the lead, but a stunning volley and poor defending saw them slump to their third consecutive defeat for the first time under Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs' performance for the first 40 minutes of the second half was a massive improvement not just on the first half, but on recent Premier League games against Watford and Liverpool. The passing was crisper and more accurate and there was a feeling of menace in the midfield.
The last five minutes undid all the good work. Once the equaliser went in, you could see the confidence that had been gradually creeping back into their game evaporate in an instant. All the recent fragilities returned and it was not altogether surprising that Inter went on to find a winner. With a home tie against Barcelona next up in European competition, Spurs will have an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- On 85 minutes it had looked as if Pochettino had made all the right calls in leaving Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld behind in London and bringing on Harry Winks for Erik Lamela. But a manager can only be judged by results, and three defeats on the bounce suggests that there is something not quite right with Spurs' setup at the moment. Whether it's key players still feeling tired after the World Cup or a weakness in the team mentality, ultimately it's Pochettino's job to find solutions. Shipping two late goals is the sort of thing Spurs teams used to do under previous managers.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Michel Vorm, 7 -- Not at fault for either of the goals and made a couple of good saves in the first half, but he looked error prone when trying to play the ball out to his defenders.
DF Serge Aurier, 7 -- Overall one of his better games and generally kept things tight down his flank. Also made some useful attacking runs in the second half. But suffered a failure of communication with Winks in allowing the cross to come over for Inter's equaliser.
DF Davinson Sanchez, 6 -- Has looked worryingly insecure this season and started very shakily. Frequently gave away possession and almost headed into his own net. More like his old self in the second half.
DF Jan Vertonghen, 7 -- Another solid performance but he can't run the entire defence on his own. Tottenham's desire to play every ball out of defence is also doing him no favours. Sometimes the direct route to the midfield is the better option.
DF Ben Davies, 7 -- A competent, unshowy display in defence without ever looking totally assured. Made few attacking forays and could arguably have done more to close down Mauro Icardi for Inter's equaliser.
MF Eric Dier, 6 -- One of those players you only really notice when he is playing poorly. Unfortunately, he's been noticed a lot recently. Improved when given more space in the second half and reverted to his customary anonymity.
MF Mousa Dembele, 7 -- Like Dier, he's been struggling a bit in recent games. In the first half he was less than assured and all too frequently gave the ball away when under no pressure. Settled down into something more like his commanding game in the second half.
MF Christian Eriksen, 7 -- Was at the heart of most of Spurs' most threatening moments throughout the game. Picked out the perfect pass for Harry Kane that wasn't converted, and scored with a deflected shot after his first effort had been well saved.
MF Erik Lamela, 7 -- Looked quite sharp and took up some good positions in the second half. If only his finishing had been sharper, Spurs might have come home with the win. Even so, he was a constant threat to Inter and it was a surprise when he was substituted.
MF Son Heung-Min, 6 -- His first first-team start since returning from the Asian Cup. His pace was a threat down the left flank but he looked a bit rusty and his first touch sometimes let him down.
FW Harry Kane, 6 -- The jury is still out on whether Spurs' talisman is still showing signs of fatigue or whether he has yet to fully recover from the injury he picked up against Bournemouth last season. Worked hard as ever with some useful hold-up play, but a Kane at his best would have put away his first-half chance.
MF Lucas Moura, 7 -- Exceptional going forward and his runs frequently unnerved the Inter defence, but it was his defensive lapse from a corner that was largely responsible for the hosts' late winner.
MF Harry Winks, N/R -- Still finding his way back to full fitness and looks a long way from the player we know he can be. Contributed little in attack and was guilty of failing to close down his man in the buildup to the equaliser.
DF Danny Rose, N/R -- Brought on late as Spurs tried to hang on for a draw. Not his fault that it didn't work out that way.