Europa League: Dawson opener cancelled out as Spurs remain winless
Athens: Michael Dawson`s first-half goal was not enough for Tottenham on Thursday night as Toche`s strike capped a late Panathinaikos rally and ensured both sides left with a point apiece in Group J of the Europa League.
Andre Villas-Boas` side were superior for the majority of the game, without ever reaching top gear and looked to have the game sewn up after Dawson nodded a Tom Huddlestone free kick past Orestis Karnezis. But the hosts awoke from their slumber and Toche slid home an equaliser after a sublime pass from Giourkas Seitaridis, leaving Spurs with two points from their opening two games.
Tottenham saw a claim for a penalty denied inside the first few minutes as Steven Caulker`s downward header appeared to hit an arm but referee Florian Meyer deemed it accidental despite the away team`s protests.
In a largely empty Olympic Stadium, Tottenham looked to control the opening stages by retaining possession and probing the Panathinaikos defence for openings.
But, it was the hosts who created the first notable opportunity as Stergos Marinos sent a rangy diagonal pass to the overlapping Seitaridis on the right side. The full-back found his way behind the Spurs defence and sent a dangerous cross in towards the lone frontman Toche but Hugo Lloris, given a start ahead of Brad Friedel, kept his concentration to claim the cross.
Aside from a later dropped cross by Lloris, that was as close as the hosts came to threatening the Tottenham goal as the Premier League side made their territorial dominance count and, with ten minutes until half-time, the away side took the lead. Dawson, who was recalled and made captain for the night, marked the occasion by beating his marker at the near post to flick Huddlestone`s inswinging free kick into the far corner.
Huddlestone, who was also given a rare start by Villas-Boas, almost closed the opening 45 with a fine half-volley from Defoe`s lay-off, only ruing Karnezis` alert diving stop.
Though it was a half of few chances, Spurs made their dominance count against a flat and insipid Panathinaikos and Jesualdo Ferreira understandably changed things at half-time, introducing Ibrahim Sissoko for Marinos.
The hosts looked more vibrant in the opening stages of the second half and certainly gave their vocal support a worthy dose of effort, but they were nearly two down on the 55th minute. Defoe latched onto a well-weighted through ball but although his first and second touches propelled him clear of the Panathinaikos defence, his third was a wild, blazed effort over the crossbar.
At the other end Quincy Owusu-Abeyie – a former Arsenal forward – looked the likeliest source of an equaliser and indeed, his clipped through ball to Lazaros Christodoulopoulos saw his team-mate head against the post from six yards, albeit with the linesman`s flag raised.
Tottenham were certainly not at their best and, although Defoe saw a deflected effort from the edge of the box fizz just wide of goal, Panathinaikos pulled level with 14 minutes to play.
Greece international Seitaridis had pushed up into the Spurs half and, with both Tottenham centre-backs too square, fed a lovely curved pass outside Caulker to Toche who had broken clear of Dawson. His first-time finish was steered just past Lloris and in off the far post, pulling the hosts level.
Villas-Boas, understandably frustrated, scampered up and down the touchline barking orders to his side as they looked to regain their lead but in truth, the mentality of the game had changed with the Greek side`s equaliser.
A flurry of activity in the box in the final stages almost saw Ferreira`s team snatch a late winner as substitute Charalampos Mavrias volleyed at goal but some stout defending saw Tottenham avert danger.
As the final whistle blew and the two former Porto coaches embraced, Villas-Boas` smile hid genuine disappointment. This was a game Spurs will view as two points dropped, particularly given the mediocre nature of their hosts` play. With just two points from six, the north Londoners will need to take a maximum haul against Maribor in their next two Europa League games.