A Nacer Chadli penalty secured Tottenham a crucial away goal in a feisty 1-1 draw with Fiorentina at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday evening.
- Fiorentina 1 Tottenham 1
- Alli only booked after kicking out at Tomovic
- Chadli breaks deadlock from penalty spot
- Bernardeschi fires equaliser for Fiorentina
With first-choice penalty taker Harry Kane rested, Chadli was the man to calm proceedings in the 37th minute from the spot after a feisty opening in Italy, which could have easily seen Tottenham reduced to ten men when Dele Alli lashed out at Nenand Tomovic.
Federico Bernardeschi was guilty of wasting a great chance for the hosts before the spot-kick, but he was able to make amends in the 59th minute when his hopeful strike flew into the back of the net via a wicked deflection.
Mauricio Pochettino semi-rotated his side from the memorable 2-1 win against fellow title-chasers Manchester City, giving Ryan Mason the captain’s armband on his first start since November in one of six changes.
The Argentinian oversaw a quiet start to the first knock-out clash of the Europa League, with the first shot of the game coming from Fiorentina’s Mauro Zarate after 17 minutes of both sides playing in a very controlled manner when in possession.
Jakub Blaszczykowski then saw an effort blocked for the hosts before a Christian Eriksen piledriver from distance stung the palms of Ciprian Tatarusanu in the Fiorentina goal with a quarter of the game gone.
There was a definite edge to the clash despite the initial lack of goalmouth action. The foul count was constantly ticking over and Alli was very fortunate to only see a yellow card for a blatant, needless kick on Tomovic after the ball went out of play.
Bernardeschi, a reported target for Barcelona, would not have impressed any watching scouts after he fluffed his lines deep inside the Tottenham area when connecting with a dangerous cross from Josip Ilicic.
The deadlock was broken in the 37th minute when Chadli coolly stroked the ball home from the penalty spot, which emanated from Tomovic clearly hauling down the attacking full-back Ben Davies in the box.
The penalty allowed Tottenham to dictate the game for the rest of the first half, with another wasted chance from Zarate the only brief moment of concern.
Spurs wasted little time after the break and would have doubled their lead had Son Heung-min not strayed into an offside position when heading in a free-kick.
Fiorentina then hauled themselves level in the 59th minute through Bernardeschi, who redeemed himself somewhat after his earlier miss with a deflected strike which left stand-in goalkeeper Michel Vorm stranded.
The equaliser gave Viola the platform to provide Tottenham with a real test for the remainder of the game, with a glancing header from captain Gonzalo Rodriguez in the dying moments proving to be the best opportunity for the hosts to head into the return leg at White Hart Lane with a narrow advantage.
Alli, who matured a great deal following his first-half incident, almost nicked a winner for Spurs with an audacious overhead kick in what ultimately proved to be an almighty tussle in Italy.