Lads slip up in Belgium - match report and debrief
Royal Antwerp 1-0 Spurs
Thu 29 October 2020, 19:49|Tottenham Hotspur
A first-half goal was enough to consign us to defeat at Royal Antwerp in our second group stage game of this season’s UEFA Europa League on Thursday.
Israeli forward Lior Refaelov was the match winner for our hosts, who currently sit top of the Belgian First Division. He received Dieumerci Mbokani’s pass in the 29th minute to fire past Hugo Lloris from 12 yards out and hand us our first away defeat of the season while bringing to an end our 10-game unbeaten run.
With nine changes to the team which beat Burnley on Monday night, we found it difficult to get any rhythm to our football in the first half, prompting Head Coach Jose Mourinho to make four half-time substitutions in an attempt to change the course of the game.
It worked in terms of possession as we bossed the second half but the home side defended their goal superbly, timing tackles to perfection and blocking every time we had a glimpse of goal. Instead, it was Antwerp who should have added to the scoreline with Mbokani somehow blazing over the bar from six yards out and Simen Juklerod racing through on goal before firing high and wide with just Lloris to beat.
The equaliser just wouldn’t come for us at the Bosuilstadion and it meant our poor record in Belgium continued – six games now without a victory in European matches in the country.
Tough night in the Belgian rain
We went into the contest in good form but never really got going in the first half, before coming up against a red wall of Antwerp defenders after the interval. Early chances fell to both sides, Pieter Gerkens glancing a header from a corner wide on 13 minutes before we tested Jean Butez in the home goal for the first time though Giovani Lo Celso’s curling left-foot effort.
Steven Bergwijn and Lo Celso combined well resulting in the Dutch forward getting his shot away, Butez saving easily, while play switched back to the other end with Refaelov’s touch and volley flying well wide.
It was a milestone match for Ben Davies, who was making his 200th Spurs appearance in all competitions, but it won’t be a game he’ll want to remember in a hurry as he lost possession 10 yards inside our half to Mbokani in the 29th minute, the former Norwich City forward breaking away and finding Refaelov who took a touch and lashed past Lloris. On the stroke of half-time Koji Miyoshi almost got in again for the hosts but Sergio Reguilon managed to recover to prevent the danger, with Abdoulaye Seck heading the resulting corner over the bar.
Four changes were made at the break – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Erik Lamela, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son replacing Lo Celso, Dele Alli, Bergwijn and Carlos Vinicius respectively. But Antwerp made a fast start to the second period and when Refaelov latched onto a poor back pass, it needed an excellent last-ditch block from Davinson Sanchez to deny him. And when Miyoshi sent in a low cross to the back post, it looked certain Mbokani would score but he somehow blazed over from six yards out.
Another change saw Harry Kane come on for Gareth Bale and as the half wore on, we had half-chances without creating anything clear-cut. Son’s effort at the near post was well blocked by Seck, and Lamela just failed to reach Serge Aurier’s tempting cross, before the hosts had a glorious chance to double their lead in the 72nd minute when Juklerod was released in on goal with just Lloris to beat but he showed no composure and blasted wide. Late pressure saw us push Antwerp back towards their own goal, however despite plenty of players in attacking positions, it just wouldn’t fall our way and we slipped to a disappointing defeat.
Landmarks for Davies and Lloris
As well as Davies’ landmark appearance, the match was notable for Lloris too as it marked the 100th European game of his career. Our skipper also became only the second Spurs player to reach 60 appearances in Europe and is now just four behind record holder Steve Perryman.
As mentioned, our previous record in Belgium wasn’t the best. Our last five European matches have seen us drawn two and lose three, the most recent before Thursday evening being the 1-0 defeat to KAA Gent in the Europa League in February, 2017.
Jose Mourinho made nine changes to the team that beat Burnley on Monday, with Lloris and Davies the only players to start again. Dele made his first start since KF Shkendija on 24 September, while Lo Celso last started against Maccabi Haifa on 1 October.
Reaction on Spurs TV
Boss turns the blame inward
Jose said after the game: "We can only blame ourselves, and we can only praise our opponent. I would prefer to praise the opponent because they played a magnificent game, and not to blame ourselves, because we played an awful game. But I have to do both, to praise them, because they played at the maximum of their level, and we have to blame ourselves, because we were poor.
"The performance was poor, the result is poor, there is nothing more I want to say. Somebody to blame? Blame me, because I’m the boss, it’s my responsibility who to play, and I’m the one to blame, but I have to admit the game confirmed to me a few things, opened other question marks and will help me in the future for my decisions."
Royal Antwerp 1-0 Spurs
Royal Antwerp (3-4-3): Butez, De Laet, Gelin, Seck, Miyoshi (Buta 58), Hongla (Verstraete 70), Haroun (c), Juklerod, Refaelov (Benavente 88), Gerkens, Mbokani. Substitutes (not used): Beiranvand, Boya, Ampomah.
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Aurier, Sanchez, Davies, Reguilon, Winks, Lo Celso (Hojbjerg 46), Bale (Kane 58), Dele (Lamela 46), Bergwijn (Lucas 46), Vinicius (Son 46). Substitutes (not used): Hart, Doherty, Alderweireld, Cirkin, White, Sissoko, Clarke.
Goal: Royal Antwerp – Refaelov 29.
Yellow cards: Royal Antwerp – Seck, Refaelov, Verstraete, Mbokani.
Venue: Bosuilstadion, Antwerp.
Referee: Maurizio Mariani (Italy).
Weather: Thick cloud, light rain, moderate breeze, 12 degrees.