Tottenham’s youngsters were on the wrong end of an eight-goal thriller, as after 120 minutes they valiantly lost 5-3 to a stylish Sporting Lisbon side in the quarter-finals of the NextGen Series.
For the 685 fans braving the bitterly cold weather at the Matchroom Stadium, the final goal of the night was worth facing the conditions.
Defensive midfielder Fabrice Fokobo – who made his Sporting Lisbon debut earlier this month – unleashed a breathtaking half volley from 45 yards out that flew over Lawrence Vigouroux in the Spurs goal, to seal the Portuguese sides passage to the last four.
The 19-year-old was the best player on the pitch and his goal was thoroughly deserved after an accomplished performance.
It was the perfect end to a thrilling match between the youngsters of Spurs and Sporting Lisbon.
The game started at a fast pace, and there was a flurry of goals inside the first 17 minutes.
Sporting took the lead through the impressive Alberto Coelho; he majestically plucked Joao Palhinha’s cross out of the air before calmly lobbing Vigouroux to put the Portuguese side ahead.
Tottenham replied two minutes later through Nathan Oduwa and it was a Portuguese Spurs player who played a massive part in the goal.
Lisbon born Ruben Lameiras cut inside and his floated cross eventually fell to Oduwa, who calmly slotted home to equalise in the 8th minute.
Just nine minutes after that goal, and Sporting took the lead once more, and again it was Coelho.
Ricardo Esgaio squared up Spurs captain Kevin Stewart and whipped in an inviting cross that Coelho toe poked past Vigouroux.
Tottenham’s Chilean goalkeeper had a night to forget.
After just four minutes he called for a ball that was never reaching his area, and it went downhill from that moment.
On several occasions he misjudged bouncing through balls on a sticky surface and he even rolled the ball straight out to a Sporting Lisbon player but fortunately wasn’t punished.
His next nervy moment however, would prove to be costly.
Again it was one of those through balls, substitute Alexandre Guedes nipped ahead of him and Vigouroux dragged him down inside the area, it could have been a red card but just a penalty was awarded.
Ruben Semedo slotted the ball into the net to make it 3-1 and send the small contingent of Sporting fans into raptures.
Spurs had just 25 minutes left to make a comeback, and remarkable they did.
The young side had kept possession well but failed to have the killer instinct when in the final third but during a dramatic final ten minutes, Spurs found their kill touch.
Sporting’s Tobias Figueiredo had dealt with Shaquile Coulthirst well for most of the night, until the 81st minute.
Coulthirst rolled Figueiredo and the centre back chopped him down to leave the referee with no choice but to award a penalty.
Laste Dombaxe calmly slotted past Meira, to spark cries of Come on you Spurs from the home fans.
An equaliser looked a bridge too far for Spurs but four minutes into five minutes of injury time and they were level.
Mickael Meira had look assured for most of the night but at the crucial moment fumbled Jack Barthram’s cross and substitute Roman Michael-Percil lashed the ball into the empty net.
Michael-Percil’s goal sparked wild celebrations, he slided near the touchline before being bundled by all his teammates.
It was cruel on Sporting but credit has to go to John McDermott’s under-19-side for their never say die attitude.
It was Tottenham who looked the fitter in the opening periods of extra time.
To reach the quarter-finals they survived extra time against PSG before winning on penalties but there was a sense that Sporting wouldn’t let the lead slip when Guedes fired home from 20-yards.
Again Vigouroux didn’t cover himself in glory, allowing the ball to go through his body to give Sporting the lead once more in the 101st minute.
Then Fokobo’s wonder goal.
His sumptuous volley was the cherry on top for Sporting Lisbon who stopped Tottenham from joining fellow English sides Aston Villa and Chelsea in the semi-finals.
Both the semi-finals and final will take place next weekend on the banks of Lake Como but unfortunately Spurs won’t be part of the final four.
A disappointing end result for Spurs but a lot of pride can be taken following an encouraging performance against arguably the best team left in the competition.
Next up for Spurs is the Aegon Future Cup, due to take place at the end of the Month.
image: © goulao