Tottenham's hopes of winning a trophy are over for another season yet they will return from Portugal with renewed optimism after Nacer Chadli's brace ended a three-match losing streak in a compelling Europa League clash at Benfica.
An impressive 3,000 fans made the trip to Lisbon more in hope than expectation after the Portuguese giants inflicted a 3-1 defeat in the first leg of their last-16 tie - Spurs' largest ever European loss at White Hart Lane.
Their task was made all the more difficult by the absence of 11 first-teamers, but they did not wilt under the pressure and Tim Sherwood's side secured a morale-boosting 2-2 draw in a fascinating end to the match.
The manner of performance and display will have pleased the under-fire boss, especially given the fact Spurs' uphill struggle became even steeper when Ezequiel Garay powered home a first-half header.
It looked to have effectively ended the tie in which there were no repeat of the fireworks between Sherwood and Benfica counterpart Jorge Jesus, only for summer signing Chadli to turn the match on its head.
The Belgium forward netted a quickfire brace which was followed up by Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Harry Kane efforts, as well as a strong penalty claim before Lima tucked away a spot-kick for the hosts in stoppage-time.
34' - GOAL! Benfica 1-0 Spurs. Well, any faint hopes Spurs had are more or less done now. Salvio gets past Naughton far too easily on the right, carefully chips a cross over and Garay is there to head past Friedel with nary a whiff of convincing marking.
55' - CHANCE FOR SPURS! Oooooh, something approaching a dangerous attack for Spurs. Chadli crosses from the left, and it skips through just - just - beyond Sigurdsson's outstretched boot. Unlucky.
78' - GOAL! Benfica 1-1 Spurs. Well, it might not mean a huge amount, but Chadli cuts in from the left and fires a bullet of a right-footed effort into the bottom corner beyond Oblak. 1-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.
79' - GOAL! Benfica 1-2 Spurs. Well, well, well. THis is interesting now. Lennon clips over a cross, Kane nods it back at the far post and Chadli, who might have been offside, hooks the ball into the net.
90' + 4 - PENALTY FOR BENFICA! Oh, and now there's a penalty to Benfica. Salvio goes into the area, and Sandro storms across and pushes him to the ground. Silly really.
90' + 5 - GOAL! Benfica 2-2 Spurs. Lima makes it 2-2 on the night, and that's that. Benfica go through 5-3 on aggregate. At least Spurs gave it a go at the end there, and plenty of pride salvaged.
Benfica have now scored in each of their last 26 games in all competitions. (Opta)
Harry Kane has become the first Tottenham player to assist two goals in a European game since Bale v Maribor in November 2012. (Opta)
This is only the second time Benfica have conceded twice in their last 21 European home games (Barcelona in October 2012). (Opta)
Chadli scores in back-to-back min. for Spurs. Last player to do this for the club in Europe: Bale in 90th and 91st minute at Inter in 2010. (Infostrada)
Will this improved performance be enough to save Sherwood? Tim Sherwood elected to sit in the stands during the clash – either keen to avoid a repeat bust-up with Benfica coach Jorge Jesus or whisper demands into the ear of Daniel Levy who was perched just in-front. The much improved performance served as a reminder that Sherwood can lead this Tottenham team. The dilemma for Levy now is whether to stick or twist.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Eduardo Salvio (Benfica): Created the opener for the hosts and caused the Tottenham backline all sorts of problems.
Benfica: Oblak 6, Maxi 6, Lusiao 7, Garay 7, Siqueira 7, Gomes 6, Amorim 6, Salvio 8, Sulejmani 7, Djuricic 6, Cardozo 6. Subs: Perez 5, Lima 6, Rodrigo, Markovic 5.
Tottenham: Friedel 6; Naughton 6, Fryers 7, Sandro 7, Rose 6; Lennon 7, Bentaleb 7, Chadli 7, Sigurdsson 6, Townsend 6; Soldado 5. Subs: Eriksen 6, Kane 5.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Tim Sherwood
- Nacer Chadli