Tim Sherwood asked for a response from his 'gutless' team following their 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea on Saturday - and he got one of sorts.
He got a slight improvement from the goings-on at Stamford Bridge at least, although that wasn’t too hard.
That will offer him the tiniest fraction of comfort on another painful night for Spurs, where their long slog in the Europa League was all but ended by a deadly Benfica side that was assisted by yet more calamitous defending.
3-1 was the scoreline at White Hart Lane, with two goals from Luisao either side of Rodrigo’s opener in the first half which gave the north London side a mountain to climb in the second leg at the Estadio da Luz next week which in truth, they stand little chance of scaling.
Their performance wasn’t terrible. They gave a good account of themselves, particularly just after the break, and when Christian Eriksen scored with a sublime free-kick memories of the comeback against Dnipro came flooding back. But this was a different level of opponent, and in truth there can be few complaints about the outcome.
This was a proper European night. The Benfica fans provided a raucous soundtrack and the pyrotechnics.
Sadly the opening exchanges couldn’t live up to the atmosphere, with Kaboul and Sandro unable to do anything with half-chances early on. Spurs had the ball, but looked unlikely to do anything with it.
In truth the best entertainment was to be found on the touchline as Tim Sherwood and Jorge Jesus locked horns over space in the technical area.
It was the visiting coach who got one over his rival first. While Spurs looked to be growing into the game and enjoying more possession, the Portuguese side looked most threatening when breaking forward at pace, particularly through the impressive Lazar Markovic, and that proved to be Tottenham’s undoing.
Possession fell to Miralem Sulejmani who found Rodrigo with a delightful pass that completely caught Kyle Naughton out, and the Spaniard tucked his finish superbly beyond the grasp of Hugo Lloris, much to the delight of the away fans.
There were a smattering of boos around White Hart Lane at the break, but whatever Sherwood said to his team at the break had the desired effect as they roared out of the blocks - Emmanuel Adebayor spurned a golden chance when played through by Eriksen minutes after the restart. That was their first real shot in anger, and it was enough to give the home crowd something to shout about despite their team’s obvious lack of fluency.
When Benfica’s second goal came it was a body blow that Spurs ultimately were unable to recover from - and once again it was a goal the home side could have avoided.
After Ruben Amorim had tested Lloris when Harry Kane - surprisingly in ahead of Roberto Soldado, gifted away possession, the Portuguese outfit scored from the resulting corner, with Luisao left completely unattended to nod home just before the hour mark.
Tottenham’s fightback started with a Christian Eriksen free-kick after 64 minutes, much like it did against Dnipro in the previous round. The Dane stepped up after Kane had been felled and dispatched his effort expertly into the top corner to give the White Hart Lane faithful something to grasp on to.
Roberto Soldado emerged from the bench to add more firepower to the Spurs attack but once more the home side's frailties at the back undermined their best efforts.
Lloris could only parry Nicolas Gaitain’s corner into the path of Luisao, who slammed home his second of the night with seven minutes remaining.
There were more fireworks to come - first thanks to the Benfica fans - and then from the Portuguese league leader’s manager, who seemed to gesture the scoreline towards his counterpart which kick-started an altercation between the pair.
That seemed to take all the fight that Sherwood had left. He gazed towards the hazy night sky above White Hart Lane, a defeated man. This may be the beginning of the end for him. It is almost certainly is end of Tottenham’s Europa League campaign.
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