Alexander M Gross
Literature | Language | Culture

By: A M Gross | October 02, 2019

Tuesday 01 October, 20:00 hrs

UEFA Champions League group stage

A strong start belied a chastening and ultimately humiliating evening for Tottenham Hotspur as they succumbed to five-time European Cup winners FC Bayern Munich in North London. Former Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry produced a virtuoso four-goal display on a night when the visitors’ European pedigree and clinical finishing simply proved too much for Spurs. The opening half hour had suggested otherwise, with Heung-min Son finding the net with his third good chance on twelve minutes. Two outstanding finishes from outside the box, from Joshua Kimmich and Robert Lewandowski, saw FC Bayern take a 2-1 lead into half-time, yet there was plenty of cause for optimism among the home support following a first half in which Spurs kept their opponents under pressure and should have converted more chances. But an abject second-half collapse, including three late goals in the space of five minutes, compounds the sense of unease around Tottenham at the start of this season, and leaves Mauricio Pochettino’s team with plenty of work to do if they are to escape from UEFA Champions League group B.

Coach Niko Kovac fielded a Bayern team with Benjamin Pavard and David Alaba in the full-back positions, and Joshua Kimmich employed in midfield as part of a double pivot with Frenchman Corentin Tolisso. An early indicator of Gnabry’s formidable pace and threat on the counter attack came just a minute into the game, when he latched on to a through ball from Kingsley Coman but shot straight at Hugo Lloris in the Tottenham goal. Shortly afterwards Son spurned his first chance, which developed from Moussa Sissoko’s strong midfield play and a defence-splitting pass from Tanguy Ndombele. Son was again teed up by Ndombele on ten minutes but shot straight at Manuel Neuer when Harry Kane was waiting to pounce on the edge of the six-yard box. Spurs were pressing their opponents high up the pitch and playing fast, incisive football that found its reward when Tolisso ceded possession on the edge of his area and Sissoko fed the ball to Son, who was able to beat Neuer at a third attempt to open the scoring with a low finish.

The lead only lasted three minutes, however, as Kimmich was afforded space some 25 yards from goal and hit the inside side netting with a stunning right-footed shot that left Lloris with no chance. Spurs continued to play on the front foot throughout the first half, and Ndombele had a chance of his own to restore the lead on 25 minutes when Serge Aurier’s cross picked him out on the edge of the penalty area but his low shot was turned past the post by Neuer. Yet the first half ended with the home crowd again silenced by a stunning finish from a player in red. With Tolisso picking himself up following Aurier’s robust challenge just inside the area, and with the visiting supporters still clamouring for a penalty, Lewandowski collected the ball with his back to goal, turned in an instant and unleashed a fierce right-footed shot into the bottom corner of Lloris’s net.

Bayern found themselves in front at the interval despite not hitting their stride for much of the first half, and Kovac resolved to switch Kimmich and Pavard to the right and left side of defence respectively, introducing Thiago Alcantara to steady the midfield alongside Tolisso. It was just a few minutes into the second half that Gnabry’s threat to the Spurs backline began to tell, when he effortlessly rode a despairing tackle by Aurier on the left flank before cutting inside Alderweireld and finishing past Lloris from 12 yards. When Harry Winks lost possession in a crowded midfield just moments later, Gnabry was again too quick for Aurier and Alderweireld, and finished calmly with his left foot to put the visitors 4-1 ahead. A shell-shocked Spurs side now attempted to mount a response, and a Kane penalty just before the hour mark, followed by the introduction of Christian Eriksen on 64 minutes, helped to reanimate the home crowd.

Yet the removal of the impressive Ndombele for Eriksen, most likely due to injury, weakened Spurs significantly and contributed to a wretched ending to the match during which Gnabry doubled his tally on the night and condemned Tottenham to their heaviest home defeat in European competition. The German winger sealed his hat-trick on 83 minutes when he latched on to a long ball from Thiago and outran Jan Vertonghen to finish effortlessly past Lloris. In the absence of any determination from the Spurs backline to limit the damage and see the game out, Bayern turned the screw and scored twice more, with a first-time finish from Lewandowski and a fourth goal from Gnabry to crown his eye-catching display two minutes from time. Time and again, Spurs were found to have no answer to Bayern’s precision football and clinical finishing, and Pochettino now faces an uphill task to motivate a disconsolate squad ahead of the trip to Brighton this Saturday.

Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Winks (Lamela 81), Sissoko, Ndombele (Eriksen 64), Alli (Lucas 71); Son, Kane

Goals: Son (12), Kimmich (15), Lewandowski (45, 87), Gnabry (53, 55, 83, 88), Kane (p61)

Category: Champions League 

Tags: FC Bayern