An incredible last-minute strike from Mousa Dembele saw Tottenham draw 1-1 at Lyon to qualify for the last 16 of the Europa League 3-2 on aggregate.
With the English side leading 2-1 from the first leg, France midfielder Maxime Gonalons stole in at the near post to divert Clement Grenier’s free-kick past Brad Friedel as Remi Garde’s Gones gave Spurs a masterclass in defending.
But, with time running out and Spurs attacking in waves, Dembele – who had otherwise not impressed – cut past Grenier to unleash a remarkable drive that nestled in the bottom right.
Spurs will face Internazionale in the last 16 – meaning Gareth Bale gets a chance to repeat his heroics against the Nerazzurri.
The Welshman will need to play better than tonight, as he had an average game by his standards. Tottenham won the first leg thanks to his two free-kicks but, crucially, Lyon had an away goal, so their onus was on tight defence and quick counter-attacking.
The first part was effective thanks to a deep-lying back four and a withdrawn midfield pressing at every point, while Grenier – brought in for Steed Malbranque after scoring twice at the weekend – pulled the strings with some fine passing.
In the early stages of the match Spurs barely tested Lyon keeper Remy Vercoutre, as when they did get the ball in decent positions the final passes and crosses were awful, Aaron Lennon and Dembele particularly wasteful.
Lyon, meanwhile, always looked threatening when they came forward and took a deserved lead when Gonalons flicked a near-post header past Friedel after another excellent dead-ball delivery from Grenier on the left.
Clear-cut chances were few and far between for both sides though, and the closest anyone came to a second was Bafetimbi Gomis when he failed to reach a handful of slightly over-hit through-balls.
As the break beckoned Spurs had improved, probing away in midfield until Lewis Holtby – on his first European start for the club – drilled a low shot off the post via the glove of Vercoutre.
Lyon increasingly adopted the stance of an away side as they sought to defend the away goal.
This almost played into the hands of Bale who, aside from one trademark run that yielded a corner, had been quiet in the first half.
Indeed, at the start of the second period the Welshman adopted a more central position with Holtby occupying the left. And he should have levelled on 50 minutes when, after Scott Parker released Adebayor down the right, the Togolese’s fantastic cross landed for the unmarked Welshman, who sidefooted wide.
It was not as poor a miss as that which sandwiched Bale’s goals in the first leg, but he should have scored.
The match was opening up, as Spurs’ full-backs bombed down the flanks and Lyon found more space on the counter attack.
Lyon had a penalty appeal correctly waved away when Wolfgang Stark decided Alexandre Lacazette dived over Friedel’s challenge, while Bale had found his range and forced two unorthodox but effective punches from Vercoutre who, having been beaten twice by swerving efforts in the first leg, had devised a plan to foil the Welshman’s efforts: use both hands, get it away.
With Lennon and Holtby fading, Clint Dempsey and Gyfli Sigurdsson had been brought into play. Dempsey soon put himself about, sending a flying header over from a Bale corner and finishing just wide after good play by Adebayor.
By the end Spurs were coming at Lyon in waves but poor touches from the likes of Sigurdsson and Dempsey were letting them down.
The visitors were getting increasingly desperate as the match and European football slipped away from them, but they have a knack of scoring late goals and Dembele this time stepped up to the plate.
Having mostly disappointed, little was expected when he cut past Grenier with 30 seconds remaining; that trademark shimmy worked space for a shot, and the Belgian unleashed a fierce, zipping drive that flew past Vercoutre into the bottom right.
Three minutes of injury time saw Spurs play keep-ball as the home fans suddenly turned, the final whistle signalling Spurs’ place in the last 16.
Next up are Inter, who Bale tore apart home and away in the Champions League two years ago, in what promises to be a thrilling clash.
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