When you're the better side in a match yet you don't finish more chances than you squander, you're just asking to surrender points. That's exactly what happened in Thursday's Europa League clash involving Panathinaikos and Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs had multiple opportunities in both halves to finish off their hosts, but an inability to find a quality final touch while in the attacking third, a problem the haunted them during the first few games of the season, again cost them a win. Spurs will likely be more lively when they host Aston Villa this weekend, but they're going to have to start winning these types of matches and soon if they're serious about achieving all that Andre Villas-Boas has set out for since the start of the season.
Panathinaikos 1-1 Tottenham: First half-hour
Years down the road, countries will use highlights from roughly 75 minutes of this match as a way to torture alleged war criminals. Yes, the game was largely that bad. The first half-hour wasn't a "feeling out" process as much as it was a "do we really have to?" performance from a Tottenham side going through the motions and a Panathinaikos team more interested in kicking Spurs players than they were in trying to win. The gap in quality between the squads was noticeable in the early goings, but Tottenham failed to find the breakthrough moment despite being gifted several free kicks. Panathinaikos gave the visitors one set piece too many, however, and they paid the price for doing so.
Panathinaikos 1-1 Tottenham: Hero and goat
Former Tottenham captain Michael Dawson, who was nearly sold to QPR back in August and has since struggled to find any playing time, was handed the armband for Thursday's match. He rewarded Villas-Boas by opening the scoring in the 35th minute. Tom Huddlestone, Tottenham's best distributor throughout the first half, delivered a free kick from the left wing into the box. Dawson rose above his marker and nodded a glancing header past goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, a goal that had been coming.
Unfortunately for Dawson, he didn't do himself any favors outside of that moment. He was beaten badly on counterattacks in both halves, and his lack of pace and poor positioning aided Panathinaikos in earning an equalizer against the run of play. Giourkas Seitaridis delivered a perfect through ball past CB Steven Caulker, and Jose Toche sped past Dawson, did well to hold off the defender, and then slid a finish underneath Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and into the far corner of the net.
Panathinaikos 1-1 Tottenham: Lack of finishing
Clint Dempsey shot just wide on a free kick in the 19th minute. Jermain Defoe had what was probably Tottenham's best chance to find the back of the net outside of Dawson's header when the front man was free and clear inside the right side of the penalty area midway through the second half. The ball bounced right as he prepared to shoot, and he sailed his strike well over the bar.
Tottenham's shooting woes made up the majority of the team's significant second half highlights (or lowlights, however you want to look at it). Defoe nearly got lucky when a deflected shot caught Karnezis wrong-footed, but the ball flew wide of the left post. Gareth Bale also beat Karnezis when he hit a left-footed strike that curled outside of the reach of the 'keeper. Bale's shot, like Defoe's deflected attempt, went just wide of the left post.
Spurs were a bit unlucky to only find a single tally, but the fact remains that no team can afford to be so wasteful in the attacking third. The win was there for the taking for Tottenham. Instead, they now find themselves out of the top two in their group.
Panathinaikos 1-1 Tottenham: Conclusion
Spurs are now two points behind Lazio (those two sides played to a draw at White Hart Lane on September 20), a single point behind Maribor and one point ahead of Panathinaikos in Group J. Villas-Boas and company certainly shouldn't yet be panicking about any and all Europa League dreams, but draws will only get you so far. Some Tottenham fans may be quick to point out that Spurs probably should have earned a penalty in the second minute, when what appeared to be a certain hand ball in the box was not called by referee Florian Meyer.
Say what you will, but Spurs shouldn't have needed to rely on such a call on this night.
- Sports & Recreation