If there’s such a thing as a moral victory in sports, Tottenham should be pleased with Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Lazio in Europa League action.
Losers of their last three Premier League matches, and four of five overall, Spurs went to Rome in search of three points, but didn’t get close to that.
Instead, one point should suffice for Tottenham, after a somewhat drab game that lacked much in the way of real excitement — one of those matches that neither side will be content with, but not entirely pleased.
Lazio had numerous quality chances to bag a goal. Meanwhile, with manager Andre Villas-Boas on the hot seat, Spurs failed to notch a single shot attempt on the night, aside from a Gareth Bale goal that was incorrectly ruled offside.
The backdrop to the match was perhaps more intriguing than the action on the field.
For one, Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne, the beloved retired midfielder who spent time with both clubs, was in attendance. There were also reports of a travelling Spurs supporter being seriously injured in a bar fight the night before the match, though Lazio has denied that their supporters were responsible for the attack.
With so much going on off the pitch, the action on the pitch failed to excite.
Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was the star of the show. After arriving from Ligue 1 side Lyon in the summer, Lloris has battled incumbent Brad Friedel for the starting role in Tottenham’s goal. On this night, he showed real class in keeping the score line level. In the 27th minute, he denied Libor Kozak on a clear-cut breakaway chance, Lazio’s best of the night.
Tottenham has only Lloris to thank for the point, and surely, performances like this should merit more domestic action for the Frenchman. With his colleague Friedel getting up there at 41 years old, the embattled Villas-Boas should make the permanent switch in his top choice keeper – whether he will or not, will likely be the subject of much of the Spurs-related discourse in the coming weeks.
Villas-Boas has used Lloris mostly in the Europa League thus far this season, and he should be in goal for Spurs next Europa League fixture, where Tottenham needs at least a point in the final group stage match against Greek side Panathinaikos. Meanwhile, Lazio is through to the knockout round with the result on Thursday.
Though the season may feel like it’s slipping away for some Spurs supporters, all is not lost.
For as poor as Tottenham have been recently, and as much pressure as AVB is under at the moment, their next couple of league matches – home fixtures against West Ham and Liverpool – could propel them back into mix for a European spot for next season. After a dispiriting 5-2 drubbing at the hands of their north London rivals Arsenal, a clean sheet against a quality side on this night should give them reason to believe again.
With pressure rising, they had better find their footing quickly. Lloris can give them a fighting chance, assuming the rest of the squad comes ready to fight.
Jon Spratt is a freelance journalist and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow Jon on Twitter.