Salah Strikes to Punish Litany of Spurs Mistakes

Published: 27th February 2015 08:02 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th February 2015 08:26 AM   |  A+A-


Tottenham Hotspur's Europa League campaign is over for another year and Jose Mourinho's fingerprints were all over this defeat.

Spurs will head into Sunday's Wembley date with Chelsea having been frustrated by one of Mourinho's players - albeit an unwanted one -after Mohamed Salah sealed their exit here with the crucial second goal.

By ending Mauricio Pochettino's hopes of reaching the last 16, the winger that Fiorentina signed on loan last month also gave his parent club an early lift before the first final of the English season.
For Spurs, the stakes are now even higher for the Capital One Cup final as they bid to end their seven-year wait for silverware.

Pochettino's decision to ring the changes near the famous Giotto's bell tower backfired. Spurs will reflect especially on an appalling mistake from Roberto Soldado when this -second leg was goalless.
The pounds 26?million forward's failure to square the ball properly to Nacer Chadli, with only goalkeeper Neto to beat, came at a time when Fiorentina were losing their grip on the game.
Minutes after Spurs goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez had been sent to the stands for hurling a water bottle in anger, Mario Gomez's 54th-minute goal emphatically shifted the momentum in favour of La Viola.

Salah then provided the definitive contribution of the night to complete an agonising evening at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Pochettino must lift his players quickly. "We are all disappointed, especially the players, because this was the first final for us," he said. "It's true that this action [Soldado's miss] was key in this game. It's true that you need luck sometimes to score and the simple truth is Fiorentina scored and we didn't.
"I don't have to explain the [seven] changes because it is about players and not team selection. I don't regret it because I believe in our squad.

"This is not a moment to talk about the final but we have to look forward. I have an idea for the team but first we need to analyse this game."

In Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, it did appear that Pochettino would continue his Spurs revival after an impressive first-half performance.

The Argentine had endured restless nights weighing up his team selection for this second leg, eventually opting to start Harry Kane on the bench and surprisingly recalling Vlad Chiriches.

Spurs are proving resilient under Pochettino and their improvement since the worrying early months of this season has been impressive. They gained a foothold in the first half here after a hesitant start and produced enough threatening moments to silence temporarily a boisterous and passionate home support.

Tottenham had claims for a penalty waved away, after Stefan Savic appeared to foul Christian Eriksen in the area. Two Fiorentina defenders blocked Benjamin Stambouli's goalbound effort. The moment Soldado will struggle to forget then came in the 29th minute.

It was a glorious opportunity and further proof of how low the Spaniard's confidence has fallen.
Spurs had totally exposed Fiorentina's offside trap to leave Soldado and Chadli bearing down on goal unopposed but the striker got it all wrong and Neto easily claimed his poorly weighted pass. It was an inexplicable mistake and always looked likely to prove a pivotal moment.

Frustrations began to surface in the second half and Jiminez was sent to the stands after a confrontation with Turkish referee Huseyin Gocek, allegedly after he had thrown a water -bottle in frustration at a decision that went against Spurs.

Seconds later Fiorentina were ahead when Gomez, the German international, capitalised on a misplaced pass from Federico Fazio and then easily outpaced the defender before beating Hugo Lloris with a confident, low shot. Salah had wasted a chance to score earlier when he was also sent clear but Lloris saved.

With the game threatening to drift away completely from Spurs, Kane and Andros Townsend were introduced from the bench.

But Salah finally put away one of his chances 19 minutes from the end, capitalising on another mistake, this time from centre-back Jan Vertonghen, before beating Lloris. Somewhere in Surrey, Mourinho will have probably chuckled to himself.

Kane had a goal disallowed for offside late on but minds will now turn to Sunday as Spurs attempt to prevent their season from unravelling. It is Chelsea 1 Tottenham 0 already.

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