Conte bow sees Spurs survive Vitesse scare
Antonio Conte's first game in charge of Tottenham produces five goals and three red cards
Friday, 5th November 2021 — By Dan Carrier at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Europa Conference League Group Stage
SPURS 3 (Son 14, Moura 22, Rasmussen 28 og, Romero sent off 59)
VITESSE 2 (Rasmussen 32, Bero 39, Doekhi sent off 80, Schubert sent off 84)
WELCOME to Spurs, Antonio – and how gracious of the players not only to display themselves at their best, but also show just how much work Conte has in front of him.
The first starting line-up of this exciting new era beat Vitesse by three goals to two in a bad-tempered, error-strewn Europa Conference League group game that Conte described as “full of emotions”.
The new Tottenham boss said: “We were winning 3-0 and we were dominating the game, and we created many more chances to score more goals.
“Then, in 10 minutes, it happened what you don’t think can happen, we conceded two goals and gave the opportunity to Vitesse.”
Spurs lost Cristian Romero when he was sent off on the hour mark, a situation Conte insisted was good for his new crop of players.
He added: “In the second half you can’t imagine staying with 10-men for half-hour. I’m pleased that my players suffer, because it’s important to learn to suffer to win. It’s not simple, this situation.”
Conte said he had enjoyed the fiery baptism and he saw first-hand plenty to be optimistic about. “I need time to work with my players and work on different aspects to bring my idea of football,” he added.
“But, I’m pleased. I found a club with a fantastic stadium, with a fantastic infrastructure, a training ground that is wonderful, and fantastic fans. We have to give everything to repay the effort of the fans.”
Whatever Conte said before kick off, Spurs went off like a bonfire night firecracker.
Within the first 80 seconds Lucas Moura first turned an enticing cross over with a flick of his head, and then Heung-Min Son rounded keeper Markus Schubert, only to see his shot cleared off the line.
Conte set his side up, as predicted, with three at the back at the expense of an attacking central midfielder. It gave Royal Emerson a barnstorming role he looks well suited to, offering a regular outlet wide right.
But Vitesse had shown in the reverse fixture that they were no mugs, and after weathering the early intensity the Dutch side carved out a good effort via Maximilian Wittek. Thankfully the left-back got his angles all wrong, and smashed the ball into the side netting.
Hugo Lloris took the resulting goal kick smartly: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg played in Moura, whose shot was saved. Son reacted quickest to fire the loose ball home to give Tottenham a 14th-minute lead.
It felt like the floodgates would open and another goal was coming. A minute later, Son struck a post after good work from Harry Kane and Sergio Reguilon.
On 22 minutes it was 2-0. Moura played a devastating one-two with Kane to go clear and stroke the ball home.
The third goal arrived minutes later in less than silky circumstances. A scuffed Hojbjerg shot spun across for Kane, who bundled the ball in with the help of defender Jacob Rasmussen. It would go down as an own-goal.
So far, it was all smiles for the new boss. But things were going to get interesting. Very interesting.
The visitors pulled a goal back out of nowhere on 32 minutes via a Rasmussen header. Minutes later it was 3-2 after the lively Wittek broke into the box and picked out the ghosting run of Matus Bero, who side-footed into the bottom corner.
It was a reversal of fortunes that sapped confidence from Conte’s side. Vitesse upped their work rate and looked even more dangerous after the break.
On 58, substitute Lois Openda turned Romero and the defender grabbed out to halt him. Referee Marco Di Bello gave the Tottenham defender his marching orders, making a tough night even tougher for the home side.
Lloris was called on to earn his keep. One full-length save on 68 minutes from Riechedly Bazoer was particularly impressive.
Conte had seen enough, and made a triple change on 72 minutes with Harry Winks, Davinson Sanchez and Tanguy Ndombele joining the fray.
The switch closed things down, and when the match went to 10 versus 10 after a red card for Danilho Doekhi – earned for a grab on Kane – the balance tipped once more.
This topsy-turvy show offered up yet another twist when Vitesse keeper Schubert was sent off for handling outside his area as he ran out to clear from Emerson.
This harum-scarum stuff feels second nature to Spurs – but has given the demanding perfectionist on the touchline plenty to think about.
Welcome indeed, Antonio.
Spurs: Lloris, Emerson, Romero, Dier, Davies, Reguilon, Hojbjerg (Lo Celso, 87), Skipp (Winks, 73), Moura (Sanchez, 72), Son (Ndombele, 72) Kane
Substitutes not used: Gollini, Austin, Doherty, Rodon, Alli, Bergwijn, Tanganga, Scarlett
Vitesse: Schubert, Doekhi, Bazoer, Rasmussen, Dasa, Bero, Tronstad (Oroz, 89), Wittek, Baden Frederiksen (Darfalou, 72), Buitink (Houwen, 86), Gboho (Openda, 45)
Substitutes not used: van Haveren, Hajek, von Moos, Domgjoni, Yapi, Vroegh, Cornelisse, Huisman