Roberto Soldado scored a wonderful goal but it ended with honours even at White Hart Lane on Thursday evening, leaving this Europa League Round of 32 tie in the balance after the first leg.
Soldado struck after six minutes with an excellent volley and we were well on top early on, but Fiorentina equalised half an hour later through defender Jose Maria Basanta, to give themselves a crucial away goal as we head to Florence for the return in a week’s time.
The visitors had just two attempts on target throughout the 90 minutes compared to our seven but, after we dominated the opening 30 minutes, La Viola frustrated us and we weren’t able to play with our usual fluency, particularly in the second period.
Mauricio Pochettino made changes to the side which featured in the Premier League against Arsenal and Liverpool, with Soldado, Paulinho, Federico Fazio, Andros Townsend and Ben Davies all returning to the starting XI.
Anyone expecting a tight, cagey affair would have been delightfully disappointed as the game had a lovely tempo to it early on and we were immediately on the offensive.
A good spell of possession ended with the opening goal on just six minutes. Soldado played a wonderful reverse pass on the edge of the box in to Nacer Chadli 10 yards out, but his shot was well saved by Ciprian Tatarusanu.
The rebound came out to Townsend who fed Kyle Walker down the right, but his cross was blocked for a corner. From the set-piece, Paulinho delivered a centre which fell perfectly for Soldado and his first-time right-foot volley from 15 yards skipped off the wet surface and into the bottom corner of the net.
We were certainly enjoying the better of the opening skirmishes but Fiorentina were always a threat and went close on 13 minutes. A free-kick went in to Mario Gomez, who took a touch and fired goalwards but a slight deflection off Fazio took the pace off the ball and it was easy for Hugo Lloris. Moments later, Manuel Pasqual delivered an excellent cross but Joaquin failed to connect with his volley.
At the other end, Christian Eriksen had a shot blocked, while Soldado produced an acrobatic bicycle kick from the Dane’s cross but it went straight at Tatarusanu, who also saved low down from Paulinho’s drive on 22 minutes.
Townsend was a constant threat down our right and much of our attacking impetus was coming through him, and he was unlucky to see a drilled effort blocked for a corner having beaten two defenders cutting in from the flank.
Another dangerous cross from Pasqual was almost diverted in at the near post by Gomez’s flick, while Nabil Bentaleb showed his box-to-box prowess on 33 minutes, nipping in to win the ball back inside his own area before driving 60 yards and trying his luck from distance. His shot was deflected, however, and looped up into Tatarusanu’s arms.
Despite our domination for most of the half though, the visitors levelled nine minutes before the interval. A free-kick a couple of yards from the byline was whipped in by Matias Fernandez prompting Lloris to parry away but only as far as Basanta, who prodded home from close range.
On the stroke of half-time we were almost back in front when Walker fizzed over a cross which Soldado glanced goalwards, only for Tatarusanu to deny him with a fine diving save. The rebound came swiftly out to Chadli who couldn’t sort his feet out quick enough and he tried a shot which hit the crossbar and bounced down, but didn’t cross the line.
The closing stages of the first half were much more even and the game followed that pattern after the break with both sides seeing plenty of the ball, but clear chances were far harder to come by. Twice we saw good build-up play finish without an end product, first Davies and then Chadli delivering enticing crosses but no-one was on hand to add the final touch.
Bentaleb and David Pizarro both had wayward shots at either end, while Townsend went closer with a fierce 20-yard right-foot drive before we introduced the in-form Harry Kane for Chadli.
A swift breakaway from the visitors saw Gomez twist and turn his way into the area before firing high and wide, while Soldado and Paulinho combined on the edge of the Fiorentina area, the latter’s shot smacking into Tatarusanu. The keeper then saved comfortably from Soldado’s header.
As the game entered the closing stages Gomez so nearly got on the end of substitute Marcos Alonso’s low cross but couldn’t get a connection on the ball, while Kane tried to provide some late impetus with a surging run down the right but could only win a corner, which came to nothing.
Three minutes of added time came and went without incident and it finished all square, so we reconvene in Florence in seven days' time.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Fazio, Davies, Bentaleb, Paulinho (Mason 84), Townsend (Lamela 73), Eriksen, Chadli (Kane 66), Soldado. Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Rose, Dier, Dembele.
Fiorentina (3-5-2): Tatarusanu, Savic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Basanta, Joaquin, Fernandez, Pizarro, Valero (Badelj 78), Pasqual (Alonso 66), Salah, Gomez (Ilicic 84). Substitutes (not used): Neto, Richards, Aquilani, Babacar.
Goals: Spurs – Soldado 6; Fiorentina – Basanta 36.
Yellow cards: Spurs – Soldado; Fiorentina – Gonzalo, Savic.
Referee: Carlos Velsaco Carballo.