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By Ben Pearce, Tottenham correspondent, at White Hart Lane
Thursday, September 20, 2012
UEFA Europa League: Tottenham 0 Lazio 0
Tottenham were held at home for the third time in succession tonight as they kicked off their Europa League campaign with a goalless draw against Lazio.
Spurs had three goals disallowed, with Clint Dempsey being denied on his full debut in the first half, while Jermain Defoe and Steven Caulker saw their efforts ruled out in the second period.
The stalemate means Andre Villas-Boas is still without a win from his first three games at White Hart Lane, following the 1-1 draws against West Brom and Norwich before the international break – but he will get another chance on Sunday as QPR make the trip to north London.
Villas-Boas gave Hugo Lloris his debut in goal while the other deadline day signing, Dempsey, made his first start for the Lilywhites following his brief substitute appearance at Reading.
Caulker came into the side to make his second ever Spurs appearance, two years after his previous game at White Hart Lane - a 4-1 Carling Cup defeat against Arsenal on September 21 2010.
Eyebrows were raised by Villas-Boas’ choice of captain in Aaron Lennon, but a strong side was met with appreciation and anticipation from the home fans.
Spurs started confidently, with Mousa Dembele combining his bewitching skills, strength and power to good effect with and without the ball.
Lazio had the first sight of goal in the 11th minute as Alvaro Gonzalez delivered a dangerous low cross for Miroslav Klose, who was met by the onrushing Lloris, but neither player got a telling touch.
Moments later Lennon jinked infield and found Defoe, who registered the first effort on target with a snapshot from 25 yards but found the midriff of the visiting keeper.
Spurs continued to press and Lennon got in behind the Lazio rearguard but failed to find a killer ball after a mix-up with Gareth Bale.
Captain Lennon got a second chance and this time found Bale with a chipped cross, but the Welshman’s looping header was easily tipped by over the bar by Federico Marchetti.
That was not the only occasion that the lively Lennon got into a threatening position but failed to make the most of it – and, tellingly, the best delivery from Tottenham’s right flank in the first half came from Bale.
His cross was headed in by Dempsey midway through the half – but the American’s effort was disallowed for offside.
Spurs were on top, but they were unable to capitalise as Lazio grew into the game and ended the first period on top.
Stefano Mauri chipped the ball across the edge of the box to Klose, who had a good sight of goal from the D but failed to connect with his attempted volley.
And, four minutes before the break, Jan Vertonghen’s defensive header dropped kindly for Gonzalez, who sent a thumping 20-yard volley against the crossbar.
Spurs regained control of the game after the interval and, six minutes after the restart, Defoe’s clever through ball found Lennon. He was initially denied one-on-one by Marchetti and Giuseppe Biava then produced a superb goal-saving block to stop the Lilywhites skipper from forcing the loose ball over the line.
The hosts had the ball in the net for a second time in the 58th minute as Bale hared through on goal and gifted Defoe a simple finish into an open net – but the offside flag was raised once again to penalise the Wales international.
Raniere Sandro headed wastefully wide from a Bale free-kick, and Spurs then had their third goal ruled as Caulker headed home from a corner but was harshly adjudged to have pushed his marker in the process.
Having come so close to the crucial opener on so many occasions, Tottenham then nearly paid the price for a lapse of concentration.
Mauri was allowed to run clean through on goal after a ball over the hosts’ back line – but his first touch was poor and he had to check back to retrieve the ball, losing the chance to shoot.
Villas-Boas introduced Gyfli Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend in place of Dempsey and Lennon, who departed to a standing ovation - and Townsend had a late chance to become a hero, but he headed well wide of the near post.
Young Ryan Mason also came on at the death, but it was the briefest of cameos for the 21-year-old as the final whistle blew seconds after his arrival on the pitch.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Caulker, Naughton, Sandro, Dembele (Mason 90), Lennon (Townsend 81), Dempsey (Sigurdsson 75), Bale, Defoe
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs