Belfast Telegraph

Tottenham suffer frustrating Europa League draw at Maribor

By James Mariner

Maribor 1 Tottenham 1: An out-of-sorts Tottenham Hotspur stuttered to a third successive draw in this season's Europa League, producing an uninspired performance in a limp 1-1 draw at Maribor.

Gylfi Sigurdsson touched in a scrappy equaliser on the hour after Robert Beric's first-half opener, but Spurs' hopes of qualification for the last 32 remain in the balance.

"The group is completely open," the Spurs manager, Andre Villas-Boas, said. "I think we are in a good position. We have three games to play, there are nine points to play for. We are in third position. The group is very tight, it is not a group where the leader has run off with points."

Tottenham enjoyed the majority of play in the opening half but lacked a cutting edge and always remained susceptible to the Slovenian side's counter-attacking.

Jan Vertonghen, restored to the centre of defence in the absence of the sick Michael Dawson, Sandro and Jermain Defoe all went close but it was the home side who found the net first. Ales Mejac dispossessed Andros Townsend and Dejan Mezga tricked into the area before teeing up Beric. The hosts had their tails up and returned after the break with more endeavour.

Villas-Boas introduced Iago Falque in place of Townsend and the young Spaniard offered immediate threat on the left. It was from Falque's prompting that the equaliser arrived, Sigurdsson nudging over the line after Defoe's powerful shot was blocked.

Maribor, visibly growing in confidence the further the game went on, threatened toward the end, Beric again going close, while Vertonghen struck wide from distance for Spurs before the final whistle.

Qualification for the next stage remains in Spurs' hands, with two of their remaining three fixtures at White Hart Lane, including the return against Maribor on Thursday week.

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