Partizan Belgrade vs Tottenham: Mauricio Pochettino credits players for coping with 'intimidating' Belgrade atmosphere

Spurs fans were targeted by anti-Semitic abuse by a section of Partizan fans

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The Independent Football

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino believes the way Tottenham's players responded to the hostile atmosphere of Partizan Belgrade shows they can rise to the occasion under any circumstances.

Thursday's Europa League clash in Serbia could not have been much more different to a Barclays Premier League match, with the teams welcomed by a huge banner, loud, repetitive chants and the odd fire-cracker.

It would have been easy to be overawed at Partizan Stadium, yet Tottenham held firm in intimidating conditions to kick off Group C with a hard-fought goalless draw.

Such intimidating environments are nothing new to former Argentina defender Pochettino, yet the Spurs boss was proud of the way his much-changed side rose to the occasion.

 

"I have to say I have played in a number of atmospheres that were as intimidating or even more so than the one we faced in Belgrade," he said ahead of Sunday's match against West Brom.

"But most of my players had not and they coped with it very well. It is difficult to play in this type of environment, but we did well so that is one of the positive things to come out of the game.

"If we want to get the club to where we want to be we will have to face many different and difficult situations like we did at Partizan.

"We are ambitious and of course we are disappointed we did not win the game - that is what we set out to do.

"But a draw was a good and fair result in the end and the experience of playing in a match like this with that kind of atmosphere will only stand us in good stead for the future.

"If we can play there we can play anywhere and you must not forget we have not been together long. Our first season has only just started. We need to keep working hard."

Unfortunately, talk after the intense clash was dominated by the anti-Semitic banner displayed at Partizan Stadium throughout the match.

The words on the well-known Only Fools and Horses logo were changed to 'Only Jews and P*****s' in reference to Spurs' strong, historical association with London's Jewish community.

It is understood Israeli referee Alon Yefet saw the banner and included it in his report, while there are suggestions Partizan were made aware of the problem during the game.

If UEFA finds the club failed to act, a lofty punishment could be handed down, raising the possibility that their next Europa League home match against Besiktas on October 23 may be played behind closed doors.

A partial closure and fine looks a more likely, especially after Partizan swiftly acted to apologise for the "mindless act", but they will still be sweating on what actions UEFA take after confirming it will address the matter at the start of next month.

"Disciplinary proceedings have been opened against FK Partizan for racist behaviour of their supporters, field invasions by supporters, setting-off of fireworks and use of laser pointer," UEFA said in a statement.

"The case will be dealt by the UEFA control, ethics and disciplinary body on October 3."

A similar incident occurred during a Champions League tie between Bayern Munich and Arsenal last season, when fans of the German side displayed a banner which contained an illicit drawing and carried the phrase: 'Gay Gunners'.

Bayern were fined 10,000 euro (£7,868) and forced to close a section of their stadium for their following home Champions League tie, which came against fellow Premier League outfit Manchester United.

This is not the first time Partizan have found themselves in hot water with UEFA and in 2007 they were thrown out of the UEFA Cup for rioting during a first qualifying round first-leg clash at Zrinjski Mostar.

The banner at Partizan Stadium is also another unpalatable moment for Serbian football, just two years on from the racist abuse suffered by England Under-21s in a European Championship play-off.

That incident is unlikely to affect Partizan's punishment, however, as UEFA considers club and international competitions separately.

PA

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