LONDON, Sept 19 – Tottenham threw away their opening Champions League Group B clash as Inter Milan stole a winner in the second minute of added time to earn a 2-1 win at the San Siro.
Spurs went in front after 53 minutes with Christian Eriksen’s deflected goal but they cracked with Inter scoring two goals in the last few minutes, through Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino.
It was hardly deserved, as Tottenham looked comfortable for so long, only to be undone by another set piece, with Vecino heading home from a corner to break the Lillywhites’ hearts.
With Spanish Champions Barcelona and Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven also in the group, it was imperative that Spurs got something from this opening Group B clash.
Three-times European champions, this was Inter’s first sortie into the Champions League Group stage since 2011 and they did not come into this in great form, having lost 1-0 at home to Parma last weekend.
Spurs, who suffered back-to-back Premier League defeats at Watford and at home to Liverpool, made five changes. Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela made their first starts of the season, with Lucas Moura on the bench, and there was no place for the injured Dele Alli.
Tottenham, the only team in their group never to have won the European Cup, were forced into three changes at the back, with Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Ben Davies coming in to join Jan Vertonghen, but they looked composed early on, played a high line, and caught Inter offside on three occasions in the first 10 minutes.
The first real chance came after 12 minutes when Eriksen curled free kick was easily palmed away by Samir Handanovic.
And Spurs had another good chance after 21 minutes, following Milan Skriniar’s yellow card for an innocuous-looking challenge on Son. From the resulting free-kick, Eriksen’s delivery was headed on by Davis, but Handanovic made a comfortable catch.
Inter rarely threatened and looked most dangerous when Spurs were sloppy in possession.
Matteo Politano, on loan from Sassuolo, produced some of Inter’s best moments down the right flank early on, and Ivan Perisic always looked capable of doing something special every time he got on the ball. It was his cross in the 25th minute that caused panic in the Spurs box and Sanchez’s inadvertent flick forced Michel Worm to get down smartly to keep Spurs level.
Tottenham often looked frail when pressed and they gave the ball away too often in the first half. Nainggolan, who cost almost 40million euros from Roma in the summer, wasted a good opportunity from another wayward pass on the half-hour, when crossing straight to Sanchez.
In a first-half of few clear-cut chances, Harry Kane spurned the best of them on 35 minutes. Eriksen produced a wonderfully-weighted pass and the England skipper went around Handanovic, only to take a heavy touch, and found the angle too tight, sending the ball behind for a goal kick.
Nainggolan got Sanchez farcically booked for a clumsy challenge, but Politano’s free kick from 22 yards out hit the Spurs wall. From the resulting corner, Worm made a superb grab.
The second half started with a good tempo and Inter fathomed the first chance, with Politano blazing wide with the help of an unseen deflection from Davies. Soon after, Aurier had to be at his best to catch a rampaging Peresic and Vertonghen was then shown a yellow card after tugging Nainggolan’s shorts.
But having been on the back foot for the first few minutes of the second period, the tide turned in the 53rd minute and Spurs went in front. The goal had more than a touch of luck about it, too.
Eriksen did well to win a loose ball, beat two defenders and fired in a hard, low shot which produced a great save from Handanovic. The ball was initially scrambled away but Eriksen pounced again, the Dane firing goalwards, and the ball took a wicked deflection. Although the luckless Handanovic managed to get his finger tips to the ball, it looped over him an into the net.
Inter tried to respond immediately and Peresic was a little unlucky to see a far-post header cleared.
But as the game wore on, it opened up and Spurs looked more of a threat when Moura came on for Son in the 64th minute.
But against the run of play, Inter’s captain Icardi, who had an otherwise quiet night, dragged the home side back from the brink of defeat.
Moments after receiving a crack in the ribs from Davies, Icardi pulled out of the Tottenham penalty area and was in the prime position when the ball fell to him, cracking an unstoppable volley past the stranded Worm from the edge of the D with four minutes of normal time remaining.
The ball whistled into the bottom corner and while it seemed hardly deserved, Tottenham were left ruing plenty of missed chances.
And they paid the ultimate price when Vecino rose to head home from a corner with seconds remaining.
It leaves Tottenham on a run of three straight defeats and now they head to Brighton in Saturday’s Premier League clash.