Talking Points: Can Tottenham stage a comeback against Ajax?
Written by: Shriman Visahan
Mauricio Pochettino's side have a task at hand when they visit Amsterdam for the second leg.
The first leg of the UCL semi-final between Spurs and Ajax saw Donny van de Beek scoring in the 15th-minute for the latter. The fixture was largely dominated by Ajax’s disciplined play and Spurs weren't exactly having an inspiring day, with Son Heung-min out suspended, and Harry Kane injured.
Nevertheless, the hosts put a decent show despite their shortcomings. Towards the end of first half, Jan Vertonghen got caught in an on-air head collision with Toby Alderweireld and Ajax goalkeeper, Andre Onana inside the penalty box. The Cameroonian had punched the ball to safety in the nick of time, leaving the defenders to crash into one another pretty nastily. Vertonghen got the short end of the stick, with him being concussed and bleeding profusely. He tried to carry on after initial medical attention, but ended up feeling dizzy, after which he was substituted for Moussa Sissoko.
Watch: Tottenham 0-1 Ajax (Highlights)
Despite all the setbacks, Spurs gave a tough fight to the Dutch side. On that note, let's have a look at the talking points of this match:
5. Did Ajax learn from their mistakes against Real Madrid and Juventus?
Ajax went guns blazing from the start and dominated the game for 30-minutes. They held Spurs down in their side itself and made the hosts' defense sweat. Ajax had around 70% of the possession early on.
Unlike in the first legs against Real Madrid and Juventus, Ajax made their early domination count and scored. However, Ajax still could have increased the lead when David Neres hit the post in the 78th-minute.
4. Did Moussa Sissoko save Tottenham from embarrassment?
The Frenchman's arrival changed the way his team played against Ajax
There was a time when Sissoko was ridiculed by fans for his lacklustre performance but he proved his mettle tonight when he glued the empty holes of the hosts. He came on after being subbed in for Vertonghen.
He was Pochettino's trump card, changing the game with his ambition, energy and desire.. He lived up to the occasion by being rock-solid in defence and being present in attack as well when needed.
3. Did Mauricio Pochettino get his tactics wrong?
The initial 30-minutes of the match were a joke for Spurs as they were clueless on what was happening around them. Pochettino's frontline looked lost, and his three-man defence were being constantly troubled by an exciting Ajax side.
Llorente failed to play passes to streaking players, bludgeoning a number of chances in the process. Scarce midfield options limited his openings to put out a dangerous play as well. However, he seemed to have found his feet with Sissoko in and rearranging the team into 4-2-3-1. This gave Lucas Moura, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli to move freely behind Llorente and capitalize on Sissoko's ball play.
The bottom line is that Pochettino was lucky enough to spot the tear and stitch it in time.
2. Did Ajax get defanged by Spurs defense?
Hakim Ziyech had a silent night compared to his usual standards
Overall, Spurs slowly subdued Ajax's swagger in the game. Apart from a defensive mishap, which led to van de Beek scoring, the hosts held their own stride.
Dusan Tadic, Frenkie de Jong, Hakim Ziyech, and David Neres were neither given the space nor the chance to fire off shots and it happened quite consistently. Sissoko’s energy and enthusiasm in the latter half had brought the team together and managed to answer Ajax's complete voetbal style. The fact that all of this happened without Vertonghen was the cherry on top.
1. Can Tottenham stage a comeback in Amsterdam?
The match on Tuesday just showed us what they could do when things are worst and quite frankly they held up pretty well. With a well-rested Son and a fully functional Sissoko, Spurs could only get better in the second-leg.
An away match against Ajax would be hard for Spurs but the former were having a better run in their away fixtures rather than their home encounters in the UCL. It would be safe to assume that this match is still up for grabs very well when they meet each other next week.
Published: Wed May 01, 2019 01:22 PM IST