Richarlison’s brace gives Tottenham a winning start against Marseille

There was the obligatory pre-match footage of Lucas Moura’s Ajax winner and then the big-screen declaration of Tottenham’s magnificent stadium, one that is built to host these kind of Champions League nights. “We’re back.”

For so long, it looked like the big comeback from a two-season absence would go down smoothly, even when Marseille were reduced to ten men in the 47th minute after Chancel Mbemba’s foul on Son Heung-min. It was an error of judgment on the part of the former Newcastle centre-half.

The spurs were predictable, single-paced, and labored to create anything that had a clear note. That was until the 76th minute when Richarlison punched himself in and made sure the home crowd could reflect that all was well when it ended that way.

Everton’s £50million summer signing had previously failed to find the net for Spurs but changed all that with a devastating one-two punch, a pair of headers scored by a power strong

Marseille had maintained their form even after the red card, keeping Spurs largely at bay, but when Ivan Perisic shaped a cross from the left and Richarlison began to drift, they were undone . The lapse was decisive. Pau Lopez, the former Spurs goalkeeper, was exposed and beaten by the force of Richarlison’s connection.

The second was even more devastating, Richarlison beating Samuel Gigot to crash home from Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s cross after Marseille had cleared a corner halfway through.

There would be angry exchanges in the stands at the full-time whistle, with Marseille fans clashing with police, who had arrived to keep them apart from their Spurs counterparts. Objects were thrown and a Pride flag appeared to be torn down. On the pitch, however, Spurs had got what they wanted.

Tottenham’s previous Champions League tie was a last-16 defeat against RB Leipzig in March 2020. It was a disheartening night, with Jose Mourinho’s injury-hit side always feeling destined to go out , and there was a sharp contrast to the pre-The optimism of the match here, the increase in noise and energy at the start time. However, the first half would end with some booing from the Spurs support.

They were unhappy because it had been a steep price. Spurs wanted to pinch possession and transition but, with Marseille dictating the pace and closing down spaces, they could achieve little. Antonio Conte’s side struggled to get pressure on the ball and it was a good thing for them that Hugo Lloris got down to beat Matteo Guendouzi’s shot in the 45th minute.

Richarlison heads home his second goal of the game.
Richarlison heads home his second goal of the game. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Guendouzi, the former Arsenal midfielder, heard the predictable jeers, as did Nuno Tavares, on loan from north London rivals Spurs. Marseille have 12 players with past or current links to Premier League clubs and 11 of them were in the matchday squad. The strange man outside? The suspended Alexis Sánchez, also previously of Arsenal.

Marseille were good in the first half, especially in the man-to-man duels. Guendouzi was outstanding, his rhythms of step smooth. Harry Kane dropped deep to tie the game for Spurs, but it was a bit of a bummer for his side.

Kane broke in from the right in the 34th minute only to see Tavares block and soon after had a slightly clearer opening. Fed in by Son on the right of the area, he was tackled by Eric Bailly. Kane fired early and curled it wide of the far post.

Conte sent off his players minutes before Marseille’s for the second half – always an indication that it hasn’t been good enough – and saw the complexion of the game change with the sending off.

Kane picked out Son in space and, having given Mbemba the lead, the Spurs striker gobbled up the floor. Mbemba launched on the wrong foot, the tackle was also wrong and when Son went down, the referee, Slavko Vincic, had only one decision to make.

Igor Tudor kept his full-back system for Marseille, moved Guendouzi back into midfield and called on Spurs to destroy his team. Conte introduced Dejan Kulusevski at right-back, looking for a bigger punch, and the Swede flashed, weaving around the Marseille defense and then seeing a shot deflect wide.

Sead Kolasinac, another former Arsenal player, who came on as a substitute, almost brought on fellow substitute Amine Harit on 75 minutes before Richarlison headed Spurs home. Ben Davies, another substitute, would keep a clean sheet, producing an excellent block with the last action of the game.

“When we signed Richarlison, he said he couldn’t wait to play in the Champions League and hear the music,” Conte said. “They were important words and I reminded him this morning. I told him: ‘Tonight you have your chance, enjoy this moment and try to do the best you can.’ He did that.”

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