Thanks more to good luck than good judgement, Tottenham secured the draw that leaves them in a strong position to progress to the next round of the Europa League on a night when their supporters were the target of reported anti-Semitic abuse.
ANSA, the principal Italian news agency, wrote that a group of Lazio fans had chanted “Juden Tottenham”, which means “Jewish Tottenham” in German, during the first half. A banner that read “Free Palestine” was also displayed in the Curva Nord, the area that houses Lazio’s hard-core support. Uefa will await its match delegate’s report before determining its next move.
The build-up to the match was overshadowed completely by the violent incidents on Wednesday night, which left Tottenham fan Ashley Mills in a serious condition in hospital after a knife attack.
“It is an extremely difficult moment for them,” said Spurs’ manager, Andre Villas-Boas. “There is a police investigation and I’m not in control of all facts but there is massive disappointment and the fear they have gone through is hard.
“To point a finger at this point would be incorrect, but we give them a message of support. As a club, we will try to help them overcome this.”
Under such difficult circumstances, Spurs will be glad to leave Rome with this result, achieved largely because of the goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris and the poor finishing of Libor Kozak, Lazio’s reserve centre-forward. Kozak missed five acceptable chances to put his team ahead, and his profligacy means Spurs will advance to the knock-out stages if they avoid defeat against Panathinaikos on 6 December.
Lazio were fined £32,000 by Uefa for the racist chants aimed at Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend during the 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in September, and if European football’s governing body decides to act on these reports the club might suffer more severe punishment in the weeks to come.
On last night’s chants, Villas-Boas added: “It will take another investigation. It happened last time and it was acted upon quickly by Uefa. We will have to wait and see if there is anything to act upon. If there is, Uefa will have to act.”
There was, at least, a happier moment for supporters at the Stadio Olimpico when Paul Gascoigne, who played for both clubs, was presented to the fans before kick-off. The Lazio supporters unfurled banners that read “Lionhearted. Headstrong. Pure Talent. Real Man” and “Still Our Hero”.
Gascoigne was given a fine reception from both sets of fans and he will have enjoyed the fifth-minute pass from the Tottenham youngster Tom Carroll, which was worthy of Gazza at his best.
Gareth Bale, the Spurs captain for the night, ran on to the perfectly weighted ball and slipped it into the net after evading the goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, but the Welshman was wrongly ruled offside. Tottenham had two goals incorrectly chalked off in the 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane in September, and they had reason to feel annoyed again here.
The move was consistent with Spurs’ assertive start but the home side, who are fifth in Serie A, soon eased their way into the match. Lloris was surprised by Cristian Ledesma’s 30-yard strike but he managed to tip the ball on to the crossbar and push the loose ball clear.
At the other end, Bale’s cross-shot was pushed over by Marchetti but Lazio were starting to impose their will. Miroslav Klose was not included in the squad and, luckily for Spurs, his replacement, Kozak, was less accurate in front of goal than the Germany striker.
Lloris sprawled to deny Kozak with his feet after Kyle Walker had missed a simple interception in the 27th minute. Four minutes later, Kozak ran away from Steven Caulker but headed Stefano Mauri’s cross wide at the near post.
Kozak’s movement and speed off the mark make him an exciting forward, but he would be substantially more dangerous if he worked on his finishing. In the space of five minutes in the second half, the Czech deceived Lloris but slid the ball wide of an inviting goal, then, having eluded Steven Caulker to run on to Mauri’s subtle touch, his shot was too weak to beat Lloris.
Lazio pushed and probed, but could not score, and Lloris excelled himself again to keep out Michael Ciani’s point-blank header.
Man of the match Lloris.
Match rating 7/10.
Referee F Teixeira (Sp).