Tottenham’s Steven Caulker scores on a pleasing European debut... almost

Centre-back Steven Caulker picked up a clean sheet, and almost a goal too, during his first ever European night of football for Tottenham Hotspur.

What a start that could have been for centre-back Steven Caulker. Making his European debut during SpursEuropa League tie with Lazio, Caulker towered over Lazio’s Stefano Mauri and headed home Gareth Bale’s corner before wheeling away in jubilation, marking his first start in Europe with a goal. The only thing was, it wasn’t given.

Caulker was deemed to have fouled Mauri, holding the midfielder back from contesting for the ball, and his effort became Spurs’ third disallowed goal of the night in what would become an irritating night for the home team.

What can be certain is that Spurs kept a clean sheet. Whilst the visitors hit the woodwork with a powerful effort from Alvaro Gonzalez, much to the relief of debutant Hugo Lloris, the away team never looked that menacing in front of goal. Gonzalez’ effort was in fact his team’s only registered shot on goal. Had Miroslav Klose made contact with a pin-point through ball allowing the lone striker through on goal, the story could well have been different. However, his outstretched leg couldn’t quite connect with the pass.

Overall, Caulker and Vertonghen played a very strong game for Tottenham, shutting the opponents out for 90 minutes and leaving themselves frustrated after the team were unable to prove clinical up front. The team as a whole controlled possession, holding 59% of the ball and forcing Lazio into a steep 21 fouls, in a game they will feel they should have won.

Yet, the away side will travel back to Italy feeling a share of the points is an accurate reflection on the game. Like Caulker, Lazio’s defenders played a sturdy game, with Tottenham unable to break the deadlock. Spurs fans could argue this shouldn’t have been the case, with two of the three disallowed goal attempts – the others being from a Clint Dempsey header from eight yards flagged offside, and a Jermain Defoe shot to which team-mate Bale’s through ball sparking the attack also had the linesman flagging – in hindsight should have been given.

The evening will leave Spurs wondering how they didn’t secure all three points, failing once more to register a home win this season, but what was pleasing was their work at the back. Caulker won’t be given much more of a tougher test in the Europa League, just yet at least, than he did last night against the joint Serie A leaders, and their draw against Tottenham was the first time this season they not only didn’t win, but failed to score too.

image: © Denise&David

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