Winning Group C is moderately important, but most of the drama here last night came far above the pitch.
This was a night dominated by two spells of darkness, one in each half, which sent the players scuttling back into the dressing rooms. The first dark quarter-hour, which was quite entertaining, came just eight minutes in. The fans turned on their phone torches and the loudspeakers played music.
The second black-out, marginally shorter, came farcically with just two minutes of added time remaining. The players stayed on the pitch, willing the lights back on, before traipsing resignedly back inside. Eventually Besiktas held on to their 1-0 lead. Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, described it as “disappointing” and “laughable” , but said it was no excuse.
It was, for the occasional spells of floodlit football, a frustrating night for Spurs. Pochettino made 10 changes to his side but they were eventually overwhelmed by Besiktas, lifting the Turkish side to the top of the group.
Spurs will now not be seeded for Monday’s last-32 draw and could face Fiorentina, Internazionale, Athletic Bilbao or Zenit St Petersburg, all of whom could end their European season in February.
Pochettino was disappointed with the result but pleased with parts of the performance and Spurs did play well in the first half – either side of the first black-out – but could not take their chances. When Besiktas turned it up in the second half, Spurs could not live with them.
“We deserved more tonight, as we created many chances,” Pochettino said. “We didn’t score, in football you need to score. I am disappointed with the result but I think we deserved more than this.”
Only Roberto Soldado kept his place from the Spurs side who drew 0-0 with Crystal Palace on Saturday. But he had another difficult night, missing his one good chance, scuffing the ball straight at goalkeeper Tolga Zengin after Younes Kaboul nodded down Paulinho’s free-kick. Spurs played the last 20 minutes with Nacer Chadli up front.
The second-string midfield, though, started slightly better. Chadli had one shot saved and a goal disallowed, having slightly mistimed his run. At the end of the first half, that was Spurs’ best spell, and they could not take advantage.
As the temperature dropped in the second half, Besiktas started to quicken the pace. Spurs had lost their first-half bite and when Cenk Tosun volleyed the ball against the bar from 25 yards out, the atmosphere sparked back up.
Besiktas’s manager, Slaven Bilic, identified that moment as the turning point afterwards, the moment when his “bravehearts” realised that they could beat Spurs, having shown them too much respect in the first half. “We deserved it,” said Bilic. “They wanted it, they wanted first place, but we basically wanted it more.”
Finally roused to their intense best by a sparse but loud crowd, Besiktas took the lead. Gokhan Tore drifted inside and chipped the ball to the far post. Spurs were poorly organised and Olcay Sahan flicked it back across goal to Tosun, who bundled it in.
Suddenly it was all Besiktas and Spurs could not hold them back. Kerim Koyunlu was next to break through the middle but missed an obvious pass and wasted the moment. With his next move, he played a sharp one-two with Jose Sosa but shot into the side-netting. Then it was Sosa, bursting down the right, cutting back inside but shooting over.
Besiktas (4-1-4-1): Zengin; Kurtulus, Franco, Gulum (Nukan, h-t), Motta; Uysal; Tore (Koybasi, 84), Sosa, Koyunlu (Yaman, 90), Tosun; Sahan. Substitutes not used: Metin, Karaal, Kaya.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Walker (Capoue, 76), Kaboul, Chiriches, Rose; Paulinho (Lennon, 70), Stambouli; Townsend, Dembélé, Chadli; Soldado (Lamela, 69). Substitutes not used: Lloris, Fazio, Davies, Onomah.
Referee: S Johannesson (Sweden)
Europa League: Who is in the last 32
Salzburg, Dynamo Moscow, Internazionale, Everton, Fiorentina, Tottenham, Besiktas, Feyenoord, Dynamo Kiev, Legia Warsaw, Trabzonspor, Celtic, PSV Eindhoven, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Villarreal, Bruges, Torino, Dnipro, Wolfsburg, Napoli, Guingamp, Young Boys, Aalborg, Sevilla, Olympiakos, Liverpool, Zenit, Anderlecht, Roma, Ajax, Sporting Lisbon, Athletic Bilbao.
The round of 32 draw takes place in Nyon on Monday. The 12 group winners and the four best third-ranked teams from the Champions League group stage are seeded. They will be drawn against the 12 group runners-up and the remaining third-placed Champions League sides.
Round of 32 games will be played on 19 and 26 February.
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