What started out as a disastrous trip to France for a large group of Tottenham Hotspur supporters ended with Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel mockingly waving "goodbye" to the Lyon faithful. Over 89 minutes of ugly football from the visitors had successfully been erased from the scoreboard and the memory thanks to a summer transfer who moved to White Hart Lane just for these types of moments. Spurs will now again march into the San Siro to face Inter, this time after successfully defeating Lyon 3-2 on aggregate.
Care to share a taxi, anyone?
Spurs defeat Lyon, advance in Europa League: The Lyon goal
The hosts put themselves in the driver's seat of the tie in the 17th minute of Thursday's match after Kyle Walker, who had himself a rather poor outing, surrendered a free kick down the left wing. Clément Grenier swung the ball into the box, and Maxime Gonalons somehow got himself between Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale before heading a near-post attempt that beat the previously mentioned Friedel, who really couldn't do much about it.
It seemed reasonable to place the blame for the goal on Bale, who turned his back while in the air instead of defending with more aggression. Upon further inspection of the replay, though, I noticed that Walker had left that portion of the box to mark a different man, thus leaving the space open for Gonalons. Regardless of who you want to blame, it was a combination of some terrible man-marking and set piece defending coupled with a great finish that, thanks to what occurred just a few minutes before the final whistle, will largely be forgotten.
Spurs defeat Lyon, advance in Europa League: What happens when Bale doesn't score?
Spurs play some sloppy, sloppy football, that's what. Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker seemingly couldn't help but give the ball away in the first half, Lewis Holtby didn't know when to give up possession and when to attempt one-touch passes, Aaron Lennon was an invisible man, and Emmanuel Adebayor was the only guy who pushed forward for the opening 40 minutes of play. The team's reliance on the Welsh superstar was very evident during the final half-hour as Spurs were scrambling for the goal that would see them through. It really looked like no goal was coming as the seconds ticked away.
This is what happens when a squad becomes too reliant on any one player. Bale's incredible run of magic had to end at some point, and somebody else was going to have to play the hero role if Tottenham were going to avoid being only a "top four or bust" side before the end of February. Turns out, that player ended up being somebody that I wanted subbed off right around the hour-mark.
Spurs defeat Lyon, advance in Europa League: Moussa
Had you asked me about Dembele two minutes before stoppage time, I would have told you that manager Andre Villas-Boas had officially run the midfielder into the ground, and that the Belgium international desperately needed some time off the pitch. Dembele, as he has done time and time again this season, found a second wind out of nowhere in the waning moments of the match. He then broke Lyon hearts less than one minute from time.
Bale connected with Dembele in the middle of the field, and the 25-year old cut around Grenier with a move that juked the French midfielder out of his boots. With plenty of space just a few yards outside of the box, Dembele then unleashed a left-footed far-post rocket that beat outstretched goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre. Vercoutre should look on the bright side following the past seven days:
He won't have to see Tottenham Lilywhite again for a long time.
Spurs defeat Lyon, advance in Europa League: Overall
People often speak about the so-called "magic" of the FA Cup while at the same time demeaning Europa League as being nothing more than the left-handed redheaded stepchild of European football. Any Tottenham supporter who still isn't all-in on this particular competition after the team's showdowns with Lyon should just find a different club or a different hobby. Spurs may not be on their way to Wembley, but that doesn't mean they can't achieve something very special this coming May.
A trip to Amsterdam could be a lot of fun, right?
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Europa League
- Moussa Dembele
- Gareth Bale