Cristian Stellini was yelling at Harry Kane to unleash the through pass, and for a minute, it appeared like the Tottenham assistant manager, in control. At the same time, Antonio Conte watched from the terraces and was going to play it himself.
JOB. DONE. pic.twitter.com/hgnfwHjhFT
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 1, 2022
Stellini whirled on his heels and flung his hands in the air as Kane hesitated in the final minute of stoppage time. Nerves were frazzled, actually past that. The Spurs clearly wanted to prolong the night and put everyone through the ringer.
Kane understood. He passed and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg ran free. How he held his cool, the finish darting in off the far post, and Spurs went through to the Champions League final 16 as group winners, leapfrogging Eintracht Frankfurt at last.
Tottenham again slacked off in the first half. Marseille deserved to be behind at halftime to Chancel Mbemba’s header. Since 2011-12, the French club has had a chance to reach the knockout rounds.
Spurs’ psychological exam was a maelstrom of noise. The second half was even better. Catalysts showed their character when facing elimination. They did so in a second half the traveling supporters will remember. Clément Lenglet headed Ivan Perisic’s free-kick to equalize and help them finish runners-up.
Kane scored, and Højbjerg hit the crossbar. Spurs dominated the second half when they needed it, but there were a few wobbles as the game ended. Spurs. Must be.
Because Marseille had four players, an Arsenal player might sink them. In the 88th minute, Sead Kolasinac, who had come on as a replacement, headed home a free header after Perisic blocked Alexis Sánchez’s shot. He put it past the post to scream.
Conte’s tolerance for him diminished when he was sent off last week against Sporting. He took a risk by starting Ivan Perisic, Ryan Sessegnon, and Lucas Moura, somewhat of the more fan-favorite Emerson Royal and Davinson Sánchez. Something appeared to be wrong, though.
In the 29th minute, Son Heung-min was substituted after being injured by a shoulder check from Mbemba while going for a header. When Conte made the change to 3-5-2, it was a game-changer. The youngster fumbled. No good. The midfield now includes Yves Bissouma.
Before it, passing had been a problem for the Spurs. The situation for the player with the ball further worsened as we approached halftime. It looked like a 5-3-2 with the wing backs playing in a deep position. Everybody welcomed the city of Marseille. Tottenham was tense.
The breakthrough came when Igor Tudor’s squad squeezed high and won the duels. Early on, Sánchez missed the target with a header, then 34 minutes in, following a Sessegnon miskick, Jordan Veretout had a shot saved by Hugo Lloris.
After halftime, the Spurs played with fresh vigor and confidence. Hendrik Hjbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur controlled the midfield and advanced the team. Kane’s linking of play and penetrating hazardous areas were essential to the comeback.
Despite his distress, Conte didn’t react to Lenglet’s goal. After being kept back, Spurs played freely and created danger when Marseille pressed (Amine Harit fired high). After López fumbled Royal’s right-wing cross in minute 64, Kane missed the game’s most excellent chance. Royal immediately improved after replacing Sessegnon.
Spurs came. Marseille Ultras let off pyrotechnics over their squad hotel early Tuesday morning to confuse their opponents. They would ultimately reach their stride with vigor.