Needing a draw to progress but a late goal to win the group, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s belt finish with literally the last kick of the match sealed a result that speaks to the courage and character of the Spurs, especially with the absence of Antonio Conte. sideline and dressing room.
Another uneven display and a comeback win won’t end questions about Spurs’ performance, but the result ensures they are all but certain to end this half-season in a solid position to start after the World Cup.
In a fierce atmosphere in the south of France, Spurs followed Chancel Mbemba’s header in the first half but rallied after the break, Clement Lenglet heading home to equalize before Hojbjerg finished late in the inside the pole.
Spurs were without Dejan Kulusevski, Richarlison and Cristian Romero, while Heung-min Son was sent off in the first half with a head injury.
But despite their lack of firepower and the grueling schedule, they fought on until the last second of stoppage time, with their late winner ensuring they overtook Eintracht Frankfurt as winners group stage and will have a favorable draw in the round of 16 next year. .
Spurs comebacks continue
The game followed a now familiar pattern for Spurs, with a dreadful first half followed by a rally after the break.
In the opening 45 minutes, the visitors barely set foot in the Marseille half until Mbemba rightly headed the hosts in front in stoppage time, and they only managed two shots – two hopeful efforts at 1-0. In fact, in the first half, Spurs only managed six assists in the final third, all of which came back.
It was an even more abject 45-minute opener than Saturday’s comeback win over Bouremouth, the 1-1 draw with Sporting and the loss to Newcastle.
But like in all these games, Spurs improved a lot in the second half and had more than enough chances to win the game.
Conte has made it clear that it is impossible for his players to compete at full intensity for 90 minutes, and another comeback raises the question of whether the Italian deliberately orders his players to play 45-minute matches to save energy.
Or is it, as Kane suggested at Bournemouth on Saturday, that Spurs can only play with freedom once they are behind and have little to lose?
Either way, it worked spectacularly this week as Spurs got their season back on track with two big wins, but that clearly doesn’t seem like a sensible strategy going forward.
Bissouma draws attention
The first-half loss of Son to a head injury was a blow for Conte, not least because it could also rule him out of Liverpool’s visit on Sunday.
With Spurs short of strikers, Bissouma was sent off for the Korean and put on his most encouraging display in a Spurs shirt to date.
The Malian was combative and composed at the base of midfield, stringing together clean tackles and recycling the ball well.
Spurs improved a lot on the ball with Bissouma on the pitch, and he provided a platform for Rodrigo Bentancur and Hojbjerg to push forward which ultimately proved crucial.
Bissouma has been disappointed since joining Spurs in the summer but his performance here suggests he could take a turn under Conte.