Richarlison heads Tottenham to Champions League win over 10-man Marseille

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Marseille: The Brazilian marked his Champions League debut with a brace of headed goals as Spurs made the perfect start to their group

Miguel Delaney
at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Wednesday 07 September 2022 22:03 BST
Richarlison celebrates after putting Spurs in front
Richarlison celebrates after putting Spurs in front (Getty Images)

Richarlison’s Tottenham Hotspur career takes off, in his first ever Champions League appearance, and might it be the spark that Antonio Conte’s career in the competition requires? This opening game against Olympique Marseille looked like it was going to be another tepid continental display from one of the Italian’s teams, only for Richarlison to rise above it all - literally, and twice. The forward scored two fine headed goals, the second particularly acrobatic.

It didn’t quite send Spurs flying, but did put them on course to the last 16 with a respectable 2-0 win. It's all the more important given results elsewhere. This was very far from the game of the night but that's been one of the elements of the campaign so far. Spurs winning without necessarily playing well.

That was this time reflected by a smattering of boos at half-time. They should have had more faith.

The big question with Conte now is whether Spurs are being forced back or something he has decided upon, especially given his poor record in the Champions League. One admittedly surprising aspect to the season, however, has been how reactive Spurs have been. They willingly surrender the ball. It has, predictably, led to some slow games that have had sudden bursts. This was no different.

Richarlison certainly offered the spark here. It was badly needed.

In the period when it was 11 against 11, before Chancel Mbemba’s erratic red-card offence, Marseille had been the better side. They even had the better idea.

Richarlison’s two headers made the difference for Spurs
Richarlison’s two headers made the difference for Spurs (REUTERS)

Igor Tudor may have played as a defender behind Conte in that Juventus team at the turn of the millennium, but his team were far more proactive here. They looked to dominate the ball and actually impressed for long periods. Gerson and - most conspicuously for reasons more than the hair - Matteo Guendouzi especially imposed themselves. The former Arsenal midfielder was dictating a lot of the play in the first half.

Tottenham were barely on the ball and quite slow with it when they had possession. Only Richarlison was really looking to speed things up but he was often frustrated.

The best that could be said for Conte’s team was that, for all Marseille’s possession, the French side didn’t actually create anything. Tottenham were too sturdy. That has been one undeniable quality.

They finally showed the obvious quality in their squad just moments into the second half, for what was probably the game’s decisive moment before the opening goal.

In what was by far Spurs’ best move of the game up to then, Harry Kane split Tudor’s team structure with a fine through ball, putting Son Heung-Min through on goal.

Starved of goals this season, the Korean was denied again, but rather brutally. Chancel Mbemba scythed Son down, and off the defender went.

Chancel Mbemba was sent off for cynically hacking down Son Heung-min
Chancel Mbemba was sent off for cynically hacking down Son Heung-min (REUTERS)

Marseille were now under real pressure to withstand, something that became so obvious when their substitutes began to slowly trot off to waste time with 21 minutes left. Jonathan Clauss was even booked.

The French side had actually arrived at the stadium 20 minutes late, but now seemed in little hurry to leave. It worked against them, as these things often do.

Forced back, with the ball pinging around their box, it is particularly dangerous when you have someone as livewire as Richarlison around. Ivan Perisic finally found enough space to fire in a cross on 76 minutes, and Richarlison of course made his own space, heading in brilliantly.

The second was even better, the forward displaying some hang-time to divert Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s cross.

It was a fine individual display, in an underwhelming collective. Conte won’t be too bothered about the latter for the moment. Spurs are still winning, still going, and have more of their signings adapting.

Richarlison didn’t so much adapt to his first Champions League game. He revelled in it.

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