London: Hugo Lloris produced a man-of-the-match display to keep his side in control of their own fate with a string of impressive saves as Tottenham drew 0-0 with Lazio in the Europa League on Thursday night.
Emmanuel Adebayor retained his starting spot despite his red card in Saturday’s north London derby, with Clint Dempsey returning as Jermain Defoe dropped to the bench. Elsewhere Tom Carroll - who shined in the club’s 3-0 win over Maribor two weeks ago – started. For Lazio, talisman Miroslav Klose failed to recover from a knock picked up against Juventus so Libor Kozak came in.
Spurs should have been ahead with less than five minutes on the clock when youngster Carroll thread a perfectly weighted pass through to Gareth Bale, who rounded the goalkeeper and converted into the empty net only to be incorrectly flagged offside.
An entertaining end-to-end game continued to flourish as Lazio and then the visitors went close to breaking the deadlock. First Cristian Ledesma’s tested Lloris to his fullest with a swerving drive that the goalkeeper palmed onto the crossbar and away before Bale did similar again as his out-swinging cross-cum-shot nearly caught out Federico Marchetti as the shot-stopper quickly readjusted his body to flick the ball away from danger.
The hosts grew more into the game as the first half cantered by, and Lloris, in arguably in best performance in a Spurs shirt, was called upon time and time again and came up trumps each time – most notably when Ledesma was played through a hesitant visitors defence to feed Kozak through on goal only for the France No.1 to rush out a avert the danger with apparent ease.
Spurs started the second half with less impetus than what was on show during the opening 45 minutes, with their defence showing particular strain in the form of full-backs Kyle Naughton and Kyle Walker.
Lazio should have taken advantage of this hesitance when Sandro was caught in possession inside his own half and Caulker mistimed a follow-up challenge to leave Kozak with half the goal gaping to slot his side into the lead, but the striker managed to put the ball the wrong side of the post.
Defoe and Aaron Lennon were brought into the fray on the hour mark for the disappointing duo of Dempsey and Sigurdsson, but it was in defence where the visitors needed bolstering as again Lloris had to be heavily relied upon to keep the scores level with two impressive example of quick thinking denying Kozak and Lulic in quick succession.
Dembele was introduced with 15 minutes left to play following a six-week absence in an attempt to tip the midfield battle back into his team’s favour but all three second-half substitutes failed to have the desired effect as Lazio continued to control the tie.
The hosts would have been aggrieved to not claim all three points, but had secured their progression come to final whistle as Tottenham prepare to face Panathinaikos in matchday six to settle their fate.