Heurelho Gomes's blunder helped hand Udinese victory in their Uefa Cup tie here last night as Tottenham's miserable start to the season continued.
Spurs' head coach Juande Ramos had left David Bentley out of his squad and watched as Jamie O'Hara was dismissed for two bookings in a minute, ending any hopes of a fightback against the Italians.
The White Hart Lane side are bottom of the Premier League and not faring any better in Europe after Gomes's mistake was punished by Antonio Di Natale. With Udinese stroking the ball around, Gomes made a total mess of a backpass and ended up bringing down Fabio Quagliarella in the 24th minute. Antonio Di Natale, who suggested before the match that no Spurs player would get in the Udinese team, fired home the penalty and the hosts should have added to their lead before Simone Pepe sealed the points.
"In the first half we played OK but our goalkeeper made a mistake that turned the game in the wrong direction," Ramos said. "If there was no mistake from Gomes, if we scored the first goal, things would have been different. Of course this type of mistake can always happen, this is part of football. I still have to support my players and defend them. The situation is not very comfortable. At this moment [morale] in the dressing room is not in a normal situation but they know it's possible to win in football and it's possible to lose."
Bentley was omitted less than 24 hours after his outspoken assessment of Spurs' start to the season emerged – he said his team-mates had no idea what they were doing and there was little evidence to suggest an improvement is around the corner. "I chose these 18 out of the 20 in the squad," Ramos said. "I don't know what happened before the match. His reaction was normal, the same as the other players who are not playing."
Ramos can at least be thankful that Bolton – Spurs' next opponents – should not have the same quality that Udinese had. It was clear to see why midfielder Gökhan Inler has interested Arsenal, while Di Natale provided a creative spark as a forward.
Predictably for a team second in Serie A, the Italians started with plenty of confidence. They were also helped by Benoit Assou-Ekotto enduring a woeful return to the starting XI before he was taken off at half-time. The only player who looked assured on the ball was Ledley King but his knee injury means he is likely to miss the Bolton game, adding to Ramos's selection dilemmas. King had to hold the defence together as Udinese piled on early pressure. Gomes would have had no chance if Andrea Coda's header had not gone just the other side of the post after he met Gaetano D'Agostino's free-kick.
Then King had to head clear after Assou-Ekotto gave the ball away and Inler whipped over a cross. Spurs' first chance came after Jermaine Jenas wriggled to the byline then chipped his cross to the back post but Darren Bent's header went straight at Samir Handanovic. Aaron Lennon stung the palms of Handanovic with a drive before Spurs' limited confidence was drained altogether when Gomes made his blunder. He had plenty of time to clear Assou-Ekotto's backpass but hesitated and tried to take the ball around Quagliarella. The striker got between Gomes and the ball, and the Brazilian goalkeeper then hauled him down to concede the penalty.
Ramos made his move at half-time, taking off Assou-Ekotto and bringing on Luka Modric. It meant Spurs had a more attacking formation, and their first effort after the interval was Gareth Bale sending a free-kick over the crossbar. But it was Udinese who almost grabbed a second when O'Hara dwelt on the ball and Quagliarella fizzed a drive towards the bottom corner that had to be smartly saved.
It got worse for Spurs when O'Hara received two bookings in a minute, both on Alexis Sanchez, and was sent off. Di Natale almost added a delightful second, latching on to Motta's long pass and lobbing Gomes but the goalkeeper made it back to claw the ball away. Bent had a header tipped over the bar after Giovani dos Santos crossed from the right. But Pepe, another substitute, wrapped up the points, finishing off the post after Di Natale cut in from the left and Quagliarella helped the ball on.
Udinese (4-4-2): Handanovic; Motta, Coda, Domizzi, Lukovic (Pasquale, 89); Inler, D'Agostino (Floro Flores, 86), Isla, Sanchez (Pepe, 79); Quagliarella, Di Natale. Substitutes not used: Koprivec (gk), Sala, Ferronetti, Obodo.
Tottenham (4-5-1): Gomes; Hutton, King, Woodgate (Giovani, 64), Assou-Ekotto (Modric, h-t); Lennon, Zokora, Jenas, O'Hara, Bale; Bent. Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Dawson, Gilberto, Gunter, Campbell.
Referee: F Brych (Germany).
Happy anniversary? How Tottenham's travails compare with final days under Martin Jol
Ominously for Spurs' manager, Juande Ramos, tomorrow marks the anniversary of Martin Jol's dismissal, as Spurs' opening Uefa Cup group match played out in farcical circumstances. Reportedly asked to leave before the match with Getafe, Jol took charge for one last time. After Jermain Defoe put Spurs ahead, Esteban Granero equalised with a free-kick before the interval. News spread of Jol's departure during half-time and the fans rallied, chanting the Dutchman's name throughout the second half. A Braulio back-heel condemned Spurs to only their second European home defeat as Jol's reign ended in defeat. Confirmation of his sacking came on the club's website two hours after the game. Ironically, Jol's side were five points and two places better off than they are now. Just four players that featured that night remain at the club.
Tottenham (v Getafe, 25 Oct 2007) (4-4-2): Cerny; Chimbonda, Kaboul, Gardner (Dawson, 43), Lee; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zokora (Tainio, 73), Malbranque (Keane, 71); Berbatov, Defoe.