Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's equaliser grabs point for injury-hit Tottenham at lively Rennes

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·21 min read
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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's equaliser grabs point for injury-hit Tottenham at lively Rennes - REUTERS
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's equaliser grabs point for injury-hit Tottenham at lively Rennes - REUTERS
  • Rennes 2 Tottenham 2

Has it really been only two full seasons since Tottenham Hotspur were competing in the Champions League final? The memories of that occasion felt like recollections from a different age on Thursday night, and not just because Nuno Espirito Santo had ordered his players to forget about their previous European adventures.

The Europa Conference League, this new competition introduced for teams who could not qualify for the Europa League, offers little of the glamour that Tottenham had grown used to over the past few years. Uefa will be pleased to note, however, that the opening game provided plenty of competition for a team of their reputation and financial strength.

This was a lesson for all those who thought this tournament might be little more than a stroll for Nuno’s side. A surprisingly strong Tottenham team found themselves in a proper European slog here, fielding just as many punches as they swung against an energetic and dangerous Rennes.

If anything, Tottenham might consider themselves fortunate to have escaped with a draw. There were only 15 minutes on the clock when Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg pulled them level, and the French side were unquestionably the more cohesive across the full match.

Not even the long-awaited return of Tanguy Ndombele, playing his first minutes under Nuno, could inspire Tottenham into a more creative mood. The Frenchman showed glimpses of his quality, especially in the first half, but also demonstrated some of his rather problematic deficiencies without the ball.

Tottenham are yet to click into gear in attack under Nuno, and the loss of Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura to injuries (to add to the knock already suffered by Son Heung-min) could set that process back even further ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Chelsea. “It feels painful,” said Nuno of the growing list of absentees. “It has been terrible, I must be honest. After the Watford game, everything that has happened has not been very good for us. But this is football.”

At least there was encouragement to be taken from the opening exchanges, when Tottenham appeared to have rediscovered some of their verve following their gruelling defeat by Crystal Palace at the weekend. The passing was crisp, the movement was sharp and Ndombele was at the heart of everything.

This was the club record signing’s first start since April and he looked, at first, as if he wanted to prove a point. He might as well have shouted “remember me?” towards the dugout when he helped to create the opener with a glorious backheel on the touchline, right underneath Nuno’s nose.

From there the ball was worked to Kane and then to Lucas, whose attempted cross was diverted into his own net by Loic Bade. There were other flourishes from Ndombele, who was producing a collection of stepovers and flicks that initially made Tottenham far more watchable than they have been in recent weeks.

Ndombele has not been playing for a reason, though, and it was not as if he could just come in and instantly transform this team. The long-standing doubts over his defensive diligence will not go away, and he was slow to react as Rennes scored their equaliser midway through the first half.

Tottenham Hotspur's Japhet Tanganga and teammates look dejected after the match - REUTERS
Tottenham Hotspur's Japhet Tanganga and teammates look dejected after the match - REUTERS

It was Flavien Tait, Ndombele’s opposite number, who lurched towards the penalty area, played a one-two with Serhou Guirassy and bent his curling effort inside the far post. A fine goal, and no more than Rennes or their relentless supporters deserved. “They caused problems for us,” said Nuno.

Tottenham had lost their control and their lead, and they soon lost Bergwijn and Lucas, too. It all felt rather uncomfortable, not least in the second half when Gaetan Laborde gave Rennes the lead from close range, pouncing after Pierluigi Gollini had spilled a fierce effort from Kamaldeen Sulemana.

Without Kane, Bergwijn and Lucas, Tottenham required an unlikely goalscorer if they were to rescue the night. Up stepped Hojbjerg, who was alert when Matt Doherty’s cross deflected into his path.

“We showed a lot of character and belief to change the result,” said Nuno. There was no arguing with the Tottenham head coach’s assessment but, all things considered, this remained a night which provided far more questions than answers for him and his players.

Match details

Rennes (4-3-3): Salin 6; Traore 7, Aguerd 6, Bade 6, Truffert 7 (Meling 79); Bourigeaud 7, Santamaria 6 (Martin 86), Tait 8; Laborde 6, Guirassy 8 (Tel 90), Sulemana 7 (Ugochukwu 79)
Booked: Santamaria

Tottenham Hotspur (4-3-3): Gollini 6; Doherty 7, Tanganga 6, Rodon 7, Davies 6; Ndombele 7 (Alli 79), Skipp 6, Gil 6; Lucas 6 (Scarlett 54), Kane 6 (Royal 54), Bergwijn 6 (Hojbjerg 30)
Booked: Gil

Referee: Halis Özkahya (TUR)

Rennes v Spurs - as it happened

06:38 PM

Full time

Under the cosh for a long time after they opened the scoring, Tottenham ought to be pleased with the result if not the performance and injuries sustained by Lucas Moura and Bergwijn. Far too little invention, creativity and although Gil showed glimpses of genius in his control, his end product was shabby. Rennes are definitely on the right track.

Sam Dean's match report will be here imminently.

06:36 PM

90+4 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Davies chases down after giving the ball away and commits a foul to stop Rennes breaking. Then Martin is booked for a daft handball.

06:34 PM

90+2 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Guirassy leaves the fray to be replaced by the 16-year-old Mathys Tel.

06:33 PM

90 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

The fourth official signals an additional five minutes. Hojbjerg sends Doherty down the right but Rennes defend the cross. Davies sends an inswinger back in and Rodon bullets a header over the bar.

06:30 PM

88 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Emerson is pushed in the back by Tait as they fight for the second ball. He also waves off the offered hand. Free-kick.

06:29 PM

87 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? Dele is a workhorse now not the majestic, gliding attacker he once was.

Rennes corner on the right. Davies, now the captain, is warmed for some wrestling with Bade before it is taken. Dele clears.

06:27 PM

85 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Rennes sub: Martin replaces Santamaria.

06:25 PM

83 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Booking for Gil for a late tackle on Traore, sliding in after the ball had gone when it was played up the Tottenham left.

06:24 PM

81 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Gil shows his class with a superb touch to kill a long pass then he scampers around Tait to get into the box and hit a cross-shot with his laces, too close to the keeper.

06:22 PM

79 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Rennes substitution: Sulemana is replaced by Ugochukwu. Meling is also on, for whom I'm not certain.

Great chest pass with his back to goal by Guirassy sets up Laborde for a right-foot half-volley from 20 yards that he flays wide of the left post.

06:20 PM

77 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Emerson goes on a slippery run up the inside-right channel but his shot is high, wide and a wee bit hideous, sailing over the bar into the crowd.

Spurs substitution: Ndombele in his first start since April departa. Dele Alli comes on.

06:19 PM

76 min Rennes 2 Spurs 2

Doherty centres from the right, Tait slides in to clear facing his goal and knocks it up not behind. Hojbjerg, who was on his shoulder (and on his toes), anticipates superbly to nip in and slot it past Salin.

06:18 PM


Rennes 2 Tottenham 2 (Hojbjerg)

06:16 PM

74 min Rennes 2 Spurs 1

Not for the first time Tottenham allow Rennes to shoot far too easily and not for the first time Gollini's 'save' parries the ball into a dangerous area. Sulemana cut in to hammer the low shot, Laborde dashed in to roll the rebound into the unguarded net.

06:14 PM


Rennes 2 Tottenham 1 (Laborde)

06:14 PM

72 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Chance for Hojberg after Scarlett pounces on a wild Rennes' hack. He sends the ball to Hojbjerg at the edge of the box but he drags his volley tamely.

06:11 PM

71 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tottenham come down the left again and fire over a cross that Scarlett meets with a diving header at the end of an angled run that he bullets wide.

06:10 PM

69 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Nodombele's outrageous skill takes the ball deep down the left and with his strength, suppleness and dazzling feet, he turns away from Traore. leaving the Rennes' captain sprawling.

06:08 PM

67 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Laborde slices a shot over the bar from 20 yards - Tait and Guirassy both wanted the pass. It's far too easy for Rennes to strike at goal this half.

06:07 PM

65 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Good chance for Rennes when Tarore bullocks down the right and whips over a cross that was a couple of inches too high and Sulemana heads it from above his brow and over the bar.

06:06 PM

63 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Another Spurs set-piece entrusted to Gil, this one a free-kick 40 yards out on the right. And once again he gives Salin catching practice with a tame, back-foot floating cross.

06:04 PM

61 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Ndombele sends Gil down the left but while the winger does well to shimmy to work the space to cross by diddling Truffert, he then stands a cross straight to the near post and down the keeper's throat.

Rennes' fans light a flare - REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Rennes' fans light a flare - REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

06:00 PM

58 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Gil takes the free-kick, looking to whip it to the back post with his left foot from the right but he wastes it, bending it miles over the bar. Utter garbage.

05:59 PM

55 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Emerson is fouled on the edge of the Rennes box after being played down the line by Hojbjerg, the second part in a triangular move with Doherty and Emerson.

05:58 PM

53 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Excellent defensive work from Rodon to force Guirassy to shoot wide as he closed him down in a snap. Lucas Moura hits the deck again. Dele Alli has sat back down again and it's Dane Scarlett who is coming on for him. Emerson Royal replaces Harry Kane.

05:54 PM

51 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Nodombele plays a give and go with Kane down the inside-right into the box. After two touches from Kane, the trap and the turn round the corner, Nodombele closes in on goal and manages to sort his feet to get a shot off but from too tight an angle to bother the rapidly advancing keeper.

05:52 PM

49 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Lucas Moura is unable to continue and Dele Alli gets stripped. They're down to 10 again for a few moments and are on the attack but Doherty horses up the cross and Rennes defend it easily. Smoke covers the Rennes' half of the pitch. Lucas Moura is back on now.

05:50 PM

47 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tait hurts Lucas Moura with a lunging tackle and he, like Bergwijn, seems to have rolled his left ankle.

05:48 PM

46 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tottenham kick off, down on tempo as they move the ball from side to side and then chip it up the middle. The ball skips through to Salin before Kane can get close to it.

05:35 PM

Half-time Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tottenham were slick, confident and comfortable for 20 minutes but Rennes have been the far better side since the Spurs goal and are revelling out wide. Promising glimpses from Ndombele and Gil but there are big holes in that Spurs midfield.

05:33 PM

45+2 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tarore bombs down the right and fizzes over an outswinging cross that Sulemana tries to reach on the bounce with a diving header at the far post but it slides off his forehead out nearer to the corner flag than the goal. Needed Keith Houchen to bury that one. "Keith who?" Ask your grandparents ...

05:31 PM

45 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Rennes free-kick 40 yards out for a Rodon push when going up for a header. Bourigeaud whips it to the far post but too far ahead of Aguerd for the centre-back to hook back into the six-yard box.

05:29 PM

43 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Aguerd chips a ball over the top down the left but Tanganga gobbles it up and launches a counter. Gil rather than Ndombele is on the left following Bergwijn's departure. Ndombele was freelancing out there for a moment but he slips back into the 10 position.

05:27 PM

41 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

The Rennes defenders give Kane time and space to shoot at goal but he doesn't catch it cleanly and it's straight at the keeper.

05:26 PM

39 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Kane has his ankles clipped around 35 yards out. Gil is standing over the free kick and he whips a teasing ball in but Rennis manage to clear.

05:23 PM

36 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Tottenham are attempting to build some kind of momentum against this effervescent Rennes side. They are having a period of possesion and trying to take the sting out of the game.

05:17 PM

33 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Hojbjerg comes on and Ndombele moves up from centre mid to wide left. He immediately wins a corner but Rennes defend it well, shift the ball forward and Skipp makes a vital sliding interception to stop them picking out Laborde.

05:16 PM

31 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Hojberg is going to come on but while they're still down to 10 Truffert nips in from the left and fires a shot/cross towards the back-post that beats Gollini but Davies diligently comes in with Bourigeaud to ensure he can't poke it in.

05:14 PM

29 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Bergwijn looks to be in pain and Spurs soldier on with 10 for now, letting Tait again find the space to shoot.

05:12 PM

27 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Rennes are working the flanks, using the gaps between the back four and the attacking midfield trident. Skipp and Ndombele can't shuffle across in time to cut it all out.

Bergwijn is down off the field clutching his left ankle after conceding a free-kick.

05:11 PM

26 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Matt Doherty and Japhet Tanganga should have done much better to track Tait there.

05:09 PM

24 min Rennes 1 Spurs 1

Brilliant move, Tait cutting in from the left on his right, plays a lovely one-two with Guirassy and then wraps his instep around a shot from the left of the D to curl it into the bottom right corner.

05:08 PM


Rennes 1 Tottenham 1 (Tait)

05:07 PM

22 min Rennes 0 Spurs 1

Bourigeaud earns and takes a corner on the right but Moura, in ungainly fashion, manages to clear it at the near post. There's some space between Bergwijn and Davies on the Tottenham left that Rennes are trying to exploit.

05:05 PM

19 min Rennes 0 Spurs 1

Gollini saves from Guirassy's left-foot shot on the run from 20 yards but he diverts his block back into the centre of the box where Truffert, following in, can reach it only at the apex of his jump with the crown of his head and therefore can't get any power in the header.

05:03 PM

17 min Rennes 0 Spurs 1

Good work from Ndombele to bomb into space vacated by Kane to control a ball on his chest but he then fell under the challenge of Aguerd. No foul, says the ref and Rennes clear.

05:00 PM

15 min Rennes 0 Spurs 1

Bergwijn and Traore go chest to chest and shove each other down by the right corner flag. Certainly some tinder to spark there but the referee manages to calm then down before it gets out of hand and they thrown punches instead of just shapes.

04:58 PM

13 min Rennes 0 Spurs 1

It's a Bade own goal in old money but given Lucas Moura's shot might have been on target they might give it to him.

The move began with a cute Ndombele back-heel in very little space by the touchline, 15 yards inside his own half. Skipp took the pass in his stride and swept it up to Kane, back to goal, who knocked it round the corner for Moura. he took it 30 yards into the box and hit a side-foot shot that Bade tried to turn behind but only succeeded in wrong-footing his own keeper.

04:56 PM


Rennes 0 Tottenham 1

04:55 PM

10 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

Rennes - AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez
Rennes - AP Photo/Jeremias Gonzalez

04:54 PM

9 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

Gil's quick feet and good passing opens up Rennes on their right flank with short passes first to Bergwijn and then to Ndombele but they can't make much progress through the middle.

04:52 PM

7 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

First real breaking of the lines of note by Rennes with the captain Traore sending a pass between Rodon and Davies and Guirassy is first to it but Rodon recovers quickly to close the space, force him to the byline and not let him get the cross in.

04:51 PM

5 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

Rennes are pushing their full-backs high but Tottenham, so far, are doing a pretty good job of pressing the midfield and squeezing the play.

04:47 PM

2 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

Spurs sweep it around the back four from left to right and back again. Ndombele drops short to receive it and slips a crisp pass up the inside right but back it comes into a congested midfield and they work it out to Bergwijn up a left-wing cul de sac.

04:45 PM

1 min Rennes 0 Spurs 0

Tottenham, all in white, win the toss and put Rennes in to bat choose to pick ends, staying as they are. Rennes, in red shirts and blacks shorts, kick off, attacking from right to left with the sun setting in the west ahead of them.

04:43 PM

The teams are out

Spurs led by the England, but not the Tottenham, captain, Harry Kane.

04:42 PM

In case you were wondering how the Conference League works ...

Thirty-two teams have qualified for the group stage and have been drawn into eight groups of four. There will then follow a traditional knockout format from the last-16 down to a final, with knockout matches played over two legs. As with other Uefa competitions, the away goal rule will apply.

In order to qualify for the knockout stages automatically, a team must win the group. The second place team in each group will enter a qualifying round for the knockout stage, where they will play against the third-placed teams from the Europa League groups. The winners of those matches will enter the last-16 of the Europa Conference League.

In all, 141 matches will be played over the course of 15 weeks during the tournament proper. The winner of the tournament will automatically qualify for the next season's Europa League.

04:32 PM

Rennes have invested heavily

After selling Edouard Mendy and Raphinha in the summer of 2020 and Eduardo Camavinga on transfer deadline day this summer, Rennes, who finished sixth in Ligue 1 last season, have spent €20m on Loic Bade, €15m on Gaetan Laborde, €15m on Kamaldeen Sulemana, €14m on Baptiste Santamaria and €12m on Lovro Majer. Bruno Genesio, the former Lyon coach who came back from China to take over at Stade Rennais in the summer, can't say he hasn't been backed. One win, two draws and two defeats from their opening five league games confirm it is taking time for the team to gel and, given the outlay, he had better get it together soon.

04:17 PM

And for those of you watching in black and white

Rennes Salin; Traore, Bade, Aguerd, Truffert; Bourigeaud, Santamaria, Laborde, Sulemana; Tait, Guirassy.
Substitutes Gomis, Tchaouna, Abline, Diouf, Assignon, Omari, Meling, Ugochukwu, Martin, Bonet, Tel.

Tottenham Hotspur Gollini; Doherty, Rodon, Tanganga, Davies; Ndombele, Skipp; Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, Gil, Kane.
Substitutes Lloris, Reguilon, Hojbjerg, Winks, Emerson, Alli, Austin, John, Scarlett, Omole, Markanday.

Referee Halis Ozkahya

03:50 PM

And your Rennes starting XI

03:49 PM

Spurs make seven changes

03:34 PM

Good evening

Nuno Espirito Santo, the Tottenham manager, has told his players to forget their past Champions League exploits as they enter the unknown this week.

Spurs begin the group stage of the inaugural Europa Conference League with this trip to Rennes, a little over two years since they made the final of Europe's elite competition for the first time.

That Champions League defeat by Liverpool in 2019 signalled the beginning of a slide that has dumped them in Europe's third-tier competition and this match against Rennes is the toughest they are likely to face.

"We looked at Rennes and analysed them as a team from the previous game and the game before," Nuno said. "We know we are going to find a tough match, a tough team, one that is very aggressive on the pressing, playing at home, we know it is going to be harder.

"We also have a lot of experience in Europe. The past doesn't mean big things now, this is the present and we have to deal with the situation now and Rennes represent a tough, tough challenge for us and we have to raise up our standards.

"It is a realisation that this is the truth. The past doesn't mean anything for us. What you did in football doesn't mean anything. You have to challenge yourself every day - this is a message for life."

Nuno confirmed on Wednesday night that Son Heung-min and Eric Dier had not travelled to France.

Son has a calf injury that he sustained on international duty and Dier suffered a dead leg in the 3-0 Premier League defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday, but Steven Bergwijn, who missed the match at Selhurst Park, is with the squad following a recent ankle injury.

"Bergwijn is better, he travelled with us, he trained yesterday and today. He is much better," Nuno said.

A promising start to the Premier League season came to an abrupt end on Saturday in a woeful loss.

"Everybody realises we didn't perform as we wanted, and the first ones who realise this are ourselves," he said.

"I think the best way to improve is when you arrive, analyse personally and are able to identify the things you need to do well. This is the first step to improvement.

"Training, training, spending as much time as we can on the training ground. Preparing the players, trying to find solutions and then give them the support and the confidence to compete and try to improve their performances.

"I don't know any other recipes for success. It's hard work. Hard work and the boys are doing it. They are realising that in football there are ups and downs and what's important is how you react to it." Press Association