Late, late loss in Slovenia
NS Mura 2-1 Spurs
Thu 25 November 2021, 19:55|Tottenham Hotspur
A goal with the last kick of the game consigned us to defeat to NS Mura in the UEFA Europa Conference League on Thursday evening.
Despite trailing to an early goal and having Ryan Sessegnon sent off at the Stadion Ljudski vrt - home of NK Maribor - we fought back to level the scores through Harry Kane with 18 minutes remaining and had a number of chances in the closing stages to win the match. Instead, it was the Slovenian champions who took the points thanks to a last-gasp winner.
A fine curling strike from Tomi Horvat gave the home side the lead after just 11 minutes and our task of finding a way back into the game was made all the more difficult after Sessegnon was sent off having picked up two yellow cards inside the opening 32 minutes.
For long spells, we struggled to get anything going offensively as the home side made it tough for us in what was one of the biggest games in their history. But momentum changed early in the second half when Antonio Conte made four substitutions to give us fresh impetus.
And that paid dividends when one of the quartet, Lucas Moura, played in Kane and he scored with a clever finish from a tight angle to level the scores.
But it was the home side celebrating at the final whistle after Amadej Marosa broke away in the final seconds, cutting inside and hitting a shot which deflected off Davinson Sanchez and beat Pierluigi Gollini.
A painful defeat
Having beaten Vitesse in N17 on matchday four, we knew that victory in our final two group matches would see us clinch top spot, but things didn’t go to plan out in Slovenia.
Horvat had already had a sighter before he opened the scoring, hitting a rising drive over the crossbar on nine minutes, but two minutes later he was much more accurate. Having collected the ball down the right flank, he came inside onto his left foot and, with Sanchez slipping, he had time to line up a curling effort that flew into the top corner with Gollini motionless.
We did have a chance for an immediate reply, Tanguy Ndombele lifting a ball over the Mura defence which found Bryan, but he lashed his shot well over the bar.
There were very few genuine chances for the remainder of the half, but a big moment in the game came just after the half hour mark. Sessegnon had already been booked after just 15 minutes for a foul on Zan Karnicnik and then, 16 minutes later, the left midfielder stretched to win the ball but caught the foot of Ziga Kous and Portuguese referee Antonio Nobre showed him another yellow, followed by the red card.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, we had a couple of half chances, Matt Doherty sliding a ball into the danger zone but there was no-one on hand to get on the end of it and moments later, Oliver Skipp found Kane inside the area, he rolled his marker and hit a left foot shot just wide.
The last opportunity before the break fell to the hosts, as they knocked the ball around neatly in the final third before it was set for Nik Lorbek on the edge of the area and his effort was just wide of the post.
With little change to the pattern of the game in the early stages of the second half, we made a quadruple change with Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, Eric Dier and Ben Davies all coming off the bench.
It immediately gave us fresh impetus, Son bringing a decent save out of Matko Obradovic after a mazy run and Kane headed the resulting corner straight at the goalkeeper. At this stage, most of the game was being played in the Mura half as we kept the ball, pushing the hosts back and looked for the opening, which eventually came with 18 minutes remaining. After a spell of possession, Lucas slid a pass into Kane and from a tight angle, the skipper on the night dinked a neat finish over Obradovic.
We almost grabbed the lead in the 84th minute, Dier flicking a corner to the back post but Kane couldn’t keep his header down and moments later, a poor clearance from Obradovic fell to Skipp 40 yards from goal but his first-time effort drifted just wide. Lucas then hit a fierce drive just over the Mura bar as the clock ticked down, while another chance came in stoppage time, Japhet Tanganga’s flicked back header from Son’s free-kick off target.
Having missed our chances, Mura took their only real chance of the second half with the last kick of the game. We were pushing forwards trying to win the game but got caught on the counter, Marosa making the most of the space he was afforded down the right to punish us with his deflected shot.
In tonight’s other group game, Rennes drew 3-3 at home to Vitesse and despite our disappointing defeat, we can still qualify for the next stage of the Europa Conference League.
We entertain the French side on matchday six while Vitesse are home to Mura. Ourselves and Vitesse are currently level on seven points and we are ahead by virtue of a two goal advantage on goal difference. So we will need to match Vitesse’s result on 9 December to maintain second place, which would then see us qualify for a two-legged play-off against one of the third-place teams in the Europa League groups.
In team news this evening, Antonio Conte made nine changes from the win over Leeds in the Premier League on Sunday, with only Tanganga and Kane retaining their places in the starting XI.
Reaction on Spurs TV
'It's a bad loss, we didn't expect it'
Antonio Conte gave his views to Spurs TV after the loss in Maribor. "It’s a bad result, a bad loss for us and honestly we didn’t expect it. We complicated the game, but we know that there is a lot to work on and, especially after this type of game, you know that we need time and we need patience. Now it's time to rebuild, to rebuild something important but to do this we have to work, to have patience and I’m saying this especially for our fans because it was a pity to have a long journey to watch this game, and now they are coming back to London with a bad loss. I want to say thanks to them because, for sure, they didn’t deserve this type of performance."
NS Mura 2-1 Spurs
Mura (3-4-3): Obradovic, Karnicnik, Gorenc, Karamarko, Kous, Lorbek, Kozar (c) (Ouro 62), Sturm (Lotric 77), Horvat (K Cipot 87), Mulahusejnovic (Marosa 62), Pucko. Substitutes (not used): Erjavec, Zalokar, Bucek, Bobicanec, T Cipot,, Mahimic, Klepac, Mandic.
Spurs (3-4-3): Gollini, Tanganga, Rodon (Dier 54, Sanchez, Doherty (Davies 54), Skipp, Ndombele (Hojbjerg 76), Sessegnon, Dele (Son 54), Kane (c), Bryan (Lucas 54). Substitutes (not used): Lloris, Austin, Royal, Reguilon, Winks.
Goals: Mura - Horvat 11, Marosa 90+4; Spurs - Kane 72.
Yellow cards: Mura - Gorenc, Mulahusejnovic, Kozar, Karamarko, Sturm, Lorbek, Marosa; Spurs - Sessegnon, Dele.
Red card: Spurs - Sessegnon (second bookable offence).
Referee: Antonio Nobre (Portugal).
Attendance: To follow...
Weather: Light rain, light winds, 2 degrees.