A one-paced performance and a costly error saw us take just a point from our Europa League Group C match, with it finishing Spurs 1 Besiktas 1 at the Lane.
The Turkish side gave us problems, the most prominent of which was in their set up to deny us space by dropping off and crowding the centre of the park.
It’s becoming well-known that to stifle us at home, the best tactic is to drop off and get four men in to the centre of midfield. This counters Mauricio Pochettino’s ideal of having inverted wide players and trying to get extra bodies in this area himself.
Besiktas spent much of the game, before they were forced to get more players forward in search of an equaliser, congesting this central zone. Demba Ba would drop in alongside Hutchinson, Sosa and Kavlak in order to create a box to keep us from trying to move the ball through this area.
We’ve seen how Mauricio Pochettino likes to move the ball vertically forward through this zone to get attacks moving, but Besiktas stopped us from doing it.
They were clogging this central area and played narrow, as Harry Kane found when trying to dribble through the defence here. Besiktas were tucking their full backs in and Andros Townsend on this occasion was in acres if he could’ve got the ball to him out wide.
Later in the half, Nabil Bentaleb also tried to dribble through the centre, but was met by a wall of Besiktas midfielders and defenders. They were again constricting the space between their lines, but also blocking off the middle. Once more the space was out in the wide areas.
The problem for Pochettino was that he started with Paulinho playing wide on the left and Andros Townsend on the right. He quickly switched the two after 10 minutes to get each man on his natural side, but only Townsend is a conventional winger out of the pairing. He was under utilised and he often strangely continued to cut in to the middle, something he always does when over on the right.
Despite Besiktas’ tactics, we took the lead from getting a man between the lines.
Kane opens the box up
In a rare moment that we increased the tempo of our play, we opened Besiktas up before they could get set to stifle the middle. Harry Kane got between the lines, as the ball was quickly moved to him through Townsend and Bentaleb.
Kane was wide open and could take a touch, turn and run towards goal. He then fired a wicked left foot shot that skimmed across the surface and in to the corner of the net.
A great run by Roberto Soldado took centre back Tomas Sivok briefly away, meaning Pedro Franco had to come across to cover. Franco got there too late, giving Kane enough time to shoot and score.
The goal was really the only moment of the first half when we troubled them.
Besiktas’ defensive scheme meant they were often able to trap us in central areas where they had numbers and then swiftly break on the counter attack. They were extremely menacing and forced several good saves from Hugo Lloris who was in inspired form.
Their main way of creating chances was through crosses.
Olcay Sahan should have put them ahead as he got on the end of a low-driven ball across the box. However, he saw his shot across goal touched around the post as Lloris flicked out his left leg.
Sahan saw another pushed over, before a spectacular overhead kick effort from another ball into the box flashed inches past Lloris’ right-hand post.
Not to be outdone, Demba Ba was also in on the act, as he had chances from headers and shots, but also balls played over the top for him to run on to.
Ba balls over the top
The one player in the Besiktas team we should know more about than anybody else is Demba Ba.
The former Newcastle and Chelsea man is a strong and powerful player, but it’s widely known that he likes to be played in by lobbed balls over the defence. From these he can run on to the pass, volley it first time or bring it down and shoot.
This goal for Chelsea against Man Utd in an FA Cup tie is typical Demba Ba stuff.
As the match wore on, Ba went from getting on to the end of crosses to getting chances from lobbed balls over our central defence.
Hugo Lloris saved from point blank range as Ba cushioned a lob pass over our defence, similar to Mata’s in the video link above, and saw his left foot strike pushed over the bar.
Their equaliser came from a similar pass, as Besiktas were really forcing the play with just minutes to go and looked for the lobbed ball once more.
This time Vlad Chiriches should’ve cleared it, but in-keeping with his evening, he got caught twisting and turning and miscued the ball in to the path of Mustafa Pektemek.
One error in judgement was swiftly followed by another as Chiriches tried to poke the ball away from the striker with his hand. The referee pointed to the spot and Ba made no mistake with the penalty kick.
With 89 minutes on the clock, we had no time to respond.
Spurs 1 Besiktas 1 overall
Besiktas were very good in this game and forced a string of excellent stops from Hugo Lloris.
Natural width was needed against a team crowding the centre of the pitch and forcing us wide. Although Mauricio Pochettino switched Paulinho and Andros Townsend over early on, they both continued to move inside. This was strange from Townsend being on the left, as he usually goes on his left foot. Bringing Lennon on for Paulinho was a decent move to add this width, but he and Townsend switched to play as inverted wingers, which seemed to negate the point of the change.
Mauricio Pochettino said he was angry and frustrated after the game and well he should be. Despite the average performance, we could’ve come away with the win if it wasn’t for Vlad Chiriches error and subsequent handling of the ball.
We’re still in a decent position in the group, but will now have to avoid defeat against table toppers Asteras Tripolis when we travel to Greece.
Final score: Spurs 1 Besiktas 1.