3 things we learned: LASK v Tottenham
LASK - Tottenham did not play out how you would expect it to, as Spurs were lucky to leave Linz with a draw. This was very similar to their performance at Antwerp earlier in the group stage.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
Spurs were outplayed in the UEFA Europa League by the Austrian upstarts but Gareth Bale, Heung-min Son and Dele Alli (Bale and Dele via penalty kicks) all scored to seal a draw as Tottenham secured their spot in the knockout rounds.
LASK created plenty of chances throughout and Jose Mourinho will be happy with the draw but not the performance as he rotated his squad once again. Peter Michorl put them 1-0 up and Johannes Eggestein made it 2-2 late on, but those goals were more about errors from Joe Hart. Mamoudou Karamoko scored a spectacular equalizer in stoppage time to make it 3-3.
[ MORE: Europa League standings ]
This result means that Spurs go into their final Europa League group stage game needing a win at home to Royal Antwerp to win their group.
3 things we learned: LASK - Tottenham
1. Joe Hart struggles: The reason Tottenham were not 3-0 down at half time was due to two good stops from Hart, LASK hitting the post and Davinson Sanchez clearing off the line. Let’s focus on Hart’s display, as he played well to start with but should have done better on both LASK goals as they squirmed past Hart. The reserve goalkeeper has been largely solid in this Europa League campaign but this display proved he doesn’t have a chance of usurping Hugo Lloris for the starting spot. It’s wild to think that Hart is still only 33 years old, the same age as Lloris. His confidence took a battering after Pep Guardiola ousted him at Man City in his prime and his struggles at Burnley have followed him to Tottenham. Making poor mistakes on shots he should save have become Hart’s trademark over the last five yards. Not a great trademark for a goalkeeper.
2. Gareth Bale’s penalty kick papers over cracks: He switched off for a split-second defensively in the first half and Rene Renner ran through on goal but Joe Hart denied him. Bale had a few free kicks he smashed straight into the wall and aside from a cheeky nutmeg and a cross which was blocked, he did nothing in the first half. But, oh yeah, he scored. A penalty kick. With the last kick of the first half. That papered over the cracks. Bale gave the ball away often, spent most of his time tracking back halfheartedly from the right wing and looked disinterested, at best.
He also went clean through in the second half but decided to play in Son, which he got horribly wrong, instead of slotting home. When he returned to Tottenham amid much fanfare in October, playing in a tame Europa League clash would not have been his aim. These encounters are important fitness and training sessions for Bale, though, and Mourinho has been questioning Bale’s confidence in his own fitness this week. In the last two weeks against Manchester City and Chelsea, Bale has been an unused sub and many people wondered why. Based on this display, you can understand why.
3. Sloppy Tottenham grind it out ahead of Arsenal: This was a classic case of getting the job done. Nothing less. Nothing more. With a big north London derby on Sunday against Arsenal (watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET via Peacock Premium), Mourinho wanted to seal qualification to the Round of 32 and leave Austria without any injuries. He did that. But with Son, Bale, Lo Celso, Hojbjerg, Doherty and Ndombele all starting, he will have been disappointed with the level of performance. Spurs have ground out a win against Man City and a draw at Chelsea in their last two Premier League games, but there was much less satisfaction in grinding this one out. Davinson Sanchez was all over the place at the back, Hart made mistakes and Spurs didn’t look too interested. If their ‘Europa League squad’ keep playing like this, they may not get very far in this competition.