Panathinaikos 1 Spurs 1
Tottenham took charge until the break to lead a Panathinaikos side that seemed disjointed and disheartened. A second half switch saw the Greeks get back in to the game and level it up by the final whistle, as our second Europa League match finished Panathinaikos 1 Spurs 1.
Andre Villas-Boas made two changes from the side that won at Old Trafford, bringing in Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson. He changed the formation from 4-3-3 against Man Utd to a 4-2-3-1 here, to give the defence more cover in the absence of Sandro.
Panathinaikos set up in a 4-1-4-1 with Victor Vitolo playing his usual role in front of the defence, pulling the strings from deep. It was the switch in the sides of their full backs which was the most interesting part of the formation. With the suspension of left back Nikos Spyropolous, usual right back Lukas Vintra moved to that flank and Giourkas Seitaridis came in. This right side is where they attacked from and ultimately scored the equalising goal.
Spurs left, Panathinaikos right
Both teams heavily favoured the same side of the field to launch their attacks, as the ball spent a lot of the game on the Spurs left, Panathinaikos’ right.
Tottenham attacked a whopping 51% of the time down the left flank through Gareth Bale. Panathinaikos came back at us down this same side, with 46% of their forays forward.
Usually when one team heavily favours one side of the field to attack, the opposition will go at the other side. Here, both teams favoured this side of the field as Spurs pushed Panathinaikos back in the first half, with the Greeks gaining the advantage in the second.
In the first 45, Spurs attempted 19 crosses with the majority, and the goal, coming from this left side.
In the second half, pushed back by a resurgent Panathinaikos, we were only able to put 5 balls in to the box, with the majority from corners.
For the Greeks it was the reverse, just 5 crosses in the first half, and 14 after the break.
Spurs fail to get in behind when in front
The Spurs goal came during the first half when we were in complete control, but it arrived from a set piece. All evening, we were failing to get in behind the Panathinaikos defence like we have been doing to other teams in recent matches.
Against Reading, we scored twice from Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon receiving passes through the defence that they could cut back for others to slot home.
At Old Trafford, we were able to get in behind the Man Utd defence by finding runners who were cutting forward from deeper lying positions.
Here, everything was played in to feet in front of the defence and only rarely did we turn the Panathinaikos back four. Dempsey’s through ball to Defoe, who lashed over, was a rare example.
If we look at our final third passes, we can see how the ball went often to Lennon and Bale midway inside the opposition half. There were very few searching passes that went through the back four or in to the penalty area.
If we break them down by half, we can see how Spurs slipped out of the game from an attacking standpoint in the second stanza.
As a result of less penetrating passes, only 4 of our 12 shots were from inside the area. Two of these were blocked; one was the Dawson header from Huddlestone’s set piece and the other one was the effort fired over by Defoe.
Panathinaikos switch does the trick
At half time, Panathinaikos took off the largely ineffective Stergos Marinos and replaced him with Ibrahim Sissoko. They moved Quincy Owusu-Abeyie from the right wing to the left and brought Sissoko on down this right side.
We looked at both players in our 5 keys to Panathinaikos vs Spurs, as both like to dribble with the ball at their feet and create chances. The personnel switch benefited Quincy more, as he came in to the game second half.
The former Arsenal man rarely received the ball in advanced areas on the right in the first half. After switching to the left, he was able to get further up the field, as well as come inside and support Jose Toche in the centre.
Quincy Owusu-Abeyie completed 5 dribbles in the match, causing Huddlestone and Dembele problems in the second half.
Spurs sink deeper
In the first half, Spurs were dominating the play and dictating the tempo. We’ve already seen how our passes in the final third reduced after the break, but the lads sank deeper.
We can see this from the positioning of Tom Huddlestone, who receives the ball from the defenders, but also gets up the pitch in to advanced areas in the first half.
In the second, he receives one pass in the opposition half, as they pushed on and we sat back trying to condense the space between our midfield and defensive lines.
We can also see the effect it had on his passing game. In the first 45 he is pinging the ball around over long distances, moving it purposefully left and right.
In the second, barely anything penetrates the opposition half of the field.
This is not to put the blame for our second half performance on Tom Huddlestone, as the whole team dropped off, potentially fatigued in the 25-degree heat and our exertions at Old Trafford.
As the half wore on, Moussa Dembele was moving forward, with Huddlestone sitting deeper in front of the back four – maybe a sign of Tom being fatigued. WIth Panathinaikos pressing, Andre Villas-Boas should have substituted him for Sandro earlier.
Huddlestone wasn’t at fault for the goal, but with Dembele playing in advance of him at this point, it left Seitaridis free to pick out Toche which we’ll look at now.
Giourkas plays a gorgeous pass
Giourkas Seitaridis came in at right back and Panathinaikos attacked down this side 46% of the time according to WhoScored.com.
He was able to pick out a peach of a pass for the equaliser from Toche, but the warning signs had been there. Seitaridis had tried a similar pass in behind on a couple of occasions throughout the match, but was unsuccessful.
For the goal, Gareth Bale is caught pressing up field, as the pass goes by him to Seitaridis. Huddlestone is sat in front of the back four, but Dembele is slow to rotate over as Walker tracks Sissoko down the line.
This leaves Seitaridis the time to play a diagonal pass once more, looking for Toche who starts two yards behind Dawson, but finishes in front of him.
Panathinaikos 1 Spurs 1 conclusions
The first half was a good performance from Spurs and we really should have pressed home our advantage.
We were unable to get in behind the Panathinaikos defence though and make our supremacy count. It’s difficult to dominate any team away from home and the half time changes made by the Greek side allowed them come back in to the match.
Quincy was a major factor getting forward, as was Spurs sitting back due to fatigue, the heat and our exertions at Old Trafford.
Panathinaikos hadn’t lost at home this season, drawing 0-0 or 1-1 in each of their three Greek Super League encounters at the Olympic Stadium. Motherwell were thumped here 3-0 and a very good Malaga side drew 0-0, so going in to the match a draw would have seemed like a decent result.
Having played them off the park in the first half and looked pretty untroubled until the goal in the second, it could be viewed as two pints lost. Speaking after the Athens draw, Andre Villas-Boas seemed to feel that way.
“We had a very good first half, but not so good in the second for different reasons. We felt the heat and tiredness a little and lost control of the game and our possession. In the first half we were superior, we created lots of chances and everyone feels disappointed for not putting the game to bed with the second goal.”