Tottenham need big rescue mission in Germany after Leipzig grab first-leg lead
Champions League Round of 16, 1st leg
Tottenham 0 RB Leipzig 1
Timo Werner blasted home from the spot to give impressive Leipzig the advantage in a fascinating Champions League tie,
Last year’s beaten finalists have it all to do in next month’s return leg in east Germany, and will need to summon the spirit of Amsterdam, where they overturned a 1-0 home defeat in last year’s semi-final.
Two-leg ties are seldom won in the opening moments, but they can often be effectively lost, and Spurs rode their luck during a blistering start by the Germans, who instantly lived up to the hype as the newest force to be reckoned with in the Bundesliga.
Given that Spurs were crushed 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the group stages and that this Leipzig side is running them close, Jose Mourinho knew his side would be stretched. Even so, they were very nearly a couple of goals down before the contest had really got going.
Czech striker Patrik Schick was just wide twice, once with a glancing header, while Werner – who has been sweeping all before him this season - went close a couple of times and Hugo Lloris needed the aid of a post to keep out one shot during the early salvoes.
With both Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane out injured for the foreseeable future, there was a make-do-and-mend feel to Spurs line-up, making the task all the more difficult.
And after a first half in which they ceded two-thirds of possession and had just three shots to Leipzig’s 13, there was decided relief in being able to go in all-square at the interval.
Leipzig were thrilling to watch. Full of pace and ambition. Somehow Spurs had managed to keep them at bay for nearly an hour.
But then, on 56 minutes Ben Davies misread a chip into the box for Konrad Laimer and felled the midfielder, resulting in the spot-kick which Werner put away with ease.
There was the odd bit of encouragement for home fans, with Lucas Moura having an early half-chance in the second half and Giovani Lo Celso sending a low shot at Peter Gulacsi in the Leipzig goal.
But in the next moment, it needed a superb save from Lloris to deny Schick after a rampaging run and cross from the left by Angelino had been dummied by the excellent Werner to offer up a clear target. This German side breaks at breakneck speed.
Lo Celso came even closer with a bendy free-kick which Gulacsi did well to turn aside and it roused the home fans, who had been cowed into silence during a chastening first half. But by now the game had only 20 minutes to go.
Erik Lamela came on for Gedson Fernandes and also curled a free-kick from distance that was helped around a post. Lucas Moura headed over from close range.
But it seemed only set-pieces might offer Spurs a route back, whereas Leipzig looked threatening in open play, even if their attacks became less frequent as the half wore on.
There is no question who the favourites are to progress to the quarter-finals now.
Line-up: Lloris – Aurier, Sanchez, Alderweireld, Davies - Gedson (Lamela 64) Winks – Lo Celso, Alli (Ndombele 64), Bergwijn – Moura. Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Vertonghen, Dier, Skipp, Tanganga