Tottenham remain in the hunt for three trophies this season after leaving Italy with a hard-fought draw in their Europa League Round of 32 tie against Fiorentina.
Nacer Chadli had put Spurs ahead with a dubious penalty before Federico Bernardeschi’s deflected second-half effort sealed a closely-contested 1-1 stalemate – which leaves both sides fancying their chances in the return leg next week. Dele Alli was again inspirational, especially in the opening half, but he was also lucky to avoid a red card for a kick aimed at a Fiorentina defender.
In the build-up to this tie, Pochettino insisted he still had designs on winning the Europa League as well as competing for the FA Cup and Premier League back home. But, in making seven changes from the weekend win over Manchester City which left them second in the table, the Spurs head coach was putting faith in his squad to deliver when called upon.
Article continues below ...
Ryan Mason captained the side on his first start since November, while Michel Vorm deputised for injured skipper Hugo Lloris in goal. Tottenham had been knocked out here in Florence 12 months ago with another much-changed side – ahead of a Capital One Cup final against Chelsea just three days later.
It was a subdued start from both sides as neither goalkeepers were worked inside the opening 25 minutes until Christian Eriksen rasped a shot which Fiorentina’s Ciprian Tatarusanu had to push behind for a corner. Alli was booked for a petulant kick on Nenad Tomovic after he had already fouled the Viola defender on the touchline, with several Fiorentina players crowding referee Felix Zwayer.
The hosts should have taken the lead just after the half-hour mark as Josip Ilicic’s cross fell to Bernardeschi six yards out, only for the winger to fluff his lines with Mauro Zarate stabbing the loose ball wide. And they were made to pay for squandering a good chance as Spurs were awarded a penalty from their next attack as Ben Davies went down in the box after minimal contact from Tomovic.
Chadli, starting as the main striker with Kane only amongst the substitutes, stood up and confidently stroked the resulting spot-kick past Tatarusanu. Zarate wasted another decent chance as Jakub Blaszczykowski’s cross was cleared into the path of the former West Ham man, who fired over the bar just before the break.
Spurs thought they had doubled their advantage moments after the restart but Son Heung-min was offside as he dived to head in Eriksen’s free-kick. Mousa Dembele had been introduced by Pochettino at the interval and he set Chadli scampering away in search of a second, only for Tatarusanu to turn his angled effort behind.
But it was Fiorentina who would strike next as Bernardeschi let fly from long range, seeing his effort loop in over Vorm due to an unwitting deflection off Mason. Pochettino turned to Kane with a little more than 20 minutes remaining as Son made way for the man who has already hit 19 goals for Spurs this season. However, the England international could not add to that, with Fiorentina defender Gonzalo Rodriguez coming closest to producing a winner ahead of the return meeting at White Hart Lane.
SEVILLA 3, MOLDE 0
Fernando Llorente’s brace helped reigning Europa League champions Sevilla romp to an impressive 3-0 win against Molde in the first leg of this last-32 tie.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men arrived in Spain as underdogs and Unai Emery’s men took a deserved lead after 35 minutes, when Spain striker Llorente slotted home. The 30-year-old doubled the hosts’ advantage four minutes into the second half, rifling home after collecting a lovely dinked pass from Coke. Victory — and most likely a place in the last-16 — was wrapped up in the 72nd minute as Kevin Gameiro drove home from a Vitolo pass.
VILLARREAL 1, NAPOLI 0
Denis Suarez’s brilliant late free-kick gave Villarreal a narrow lead to take to Italy in their Europa League last-32 tie with Napoli.
A first leg of few clear chances had looked set to finish goalless at El Madrigal, but Suarez’s pinpoint 25-yard effort eight minutes from time gave the Spanish side a 1-0 victory. Napoli goalkeeper Jose Reina managed to get the faintest of touches to Suarez’s dipping shot but not enough to keep it out, the ball flying into the back of the net via the underside of the crossbar.
That proved the difference between the sides as miserly Villarreal claimed their ninth 1-0 victory of the season.
SPORTING LISBON 0, BAYER LEVERKUSEN 1
Bayer Leverkusen beat 10-man Sporting Lisbon 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 clash away in Portugal.
The Germans, who had failed to qualify from the Champions League group stages, took the lead on 26 minutes when Karim Bellarabi swept the ball in at the back post following a deep right wing cross from Tin Jedvaj.
Sporting’s task of getting back into the match was made harder on 74 minutes when defender Ruben Semedo collected a second caution for a foul on Bellarabi and was sent off.
Lions goalkeeper Rui Patricio denied Admir Mehmedi before Bellarabi hit the woodwork late on.
MARSEILLE 0, ATHLETIC BILBAO 1
Aritz Aduriz scored a stunning 35-yard volley as Athletic Bilbao recorded a 1-0 victory against Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.
The 35-year-old let fly first time from Sabin Merino’s knockdown to beat Steve Mandanda with an audacious effort in the 54th minute.
Aduriz’s strike stunned their Ligue 1 opponents, who have now won just one of their last eight games in front of their home fans in all competitions.
A goal of Aduriz’s quality did not look likely during a dull first half.
Visiting left-back Mikel Balenziaga scuffed a clearance straight to Mauricio Isla, who teed up Steven Fletcher on the edge of the area – but the Scotland international’s goalbound effort was blocked by Oscar De Marcos.
The closest Athletic they came to to troubling Mandanda in the first half was when a corner was cleared to Javier Eraso on the edge of the area and the midfielder’s first-time shot flew over the crossbar.
Athletic started the second half well, with Inaki Williams getting on the end of a long ball down the right before dragging a shot wide of the far post.
Nine minutes into the second half Athletic took the lead. After Merino got his head to goalkeeper Iago Herrerin’s clearance, the ball dropped to Aduriz, who unleashed a brilliant volley that fizzed over Mandana and into the net.
Marseille pressed for a leveller but were unrewarded as Fletcher headed over and Florent Thauvin’s deflected shot clipped the outside of the post, and must now head to Spain next week looking to overturn a first-leg deficit.
SION 1, BRAGA 2
Braga took a big step towards the last 16 of the Europa League with a 2-1 win against Sion in Switzerland.
Ahmed Hassan’s long ball from the left-back position in the 13th minute played in Nikola Stoiljkovic, who ran on to the bouncing ball and unleashed a first-time effort into the top corner.
The hosts levelled eight minutes after the break when Moussa Konate beat his marker with a stepover down the left and thundered a right-footed effort into the near corner.
But parity lasted for just eight minutes as Rafa Silva rifled in from the edge of the area for the Portuguese side, who ended the game with 10 men as Nikola Vukcevic earned a second booking in the 89th minute after the referee deemed he was taking too long to be substituted.