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Linzer Stadion, 3rd December 2020

LASK were eliminated from the UEFA Europa League on Matchday 5 of the group stages following an exhilarating 3-3 draw with English giants Tottenham Hotspur. Despite being only three points behind second-placed Spurs with a game still left to play, Dominik Thalhammer’s men cannot overtake the Premier League leaders on account of their inferior head-to-head record.

The Linz outfit went into their penultimate game of the group stages knowing they would most likely need a win to have a realistic chance of making it into the knockout stages for the second successive season. The Austrians sat third in Group J prior to kick-off with six points – three adrift of opponents Tottenham and table-topping Antwerp, who were at home to Ludogorets in the group’s other game.

Coach Thalhammer was without several key players, with Gernot Trauner suspended following his dismissal last week and Lukas Grgic, Marko Raguž, Husein Balić and Petar Filipović all injured. Meanwhile, his opposite number José Mourinho named a strong line-up with Harry Kane the only notable absentee from a team that even in his absence boasted an imposing front three of Gareth Bale, Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura.

Playing in their pink kits, LASK took the game to Spurs in the opening stages and almost took the lead in the sixth minute when Johannes Eggestein struck the foot of the post with a lovely curling effort from the edge of the penalty area. Major opportunities were otherwise few and far between in a first 15 minutes totally dominated by the home side, who played their trademark high pressing game, were first to almost every ball and mostly had their illustrious opponents pinned back in their own half.

The next sight of the Tottenham goal came as the game entered its 22nd minute. Rene Renner did well to manoeuvre himself into space on the edge of the box and fired a powerful effort towards the near post that was beaten away by Spurs shot-stopper Joe Hart. Renner had another good chance on the half-hour mark that was saved by Hart, but the reward for an outstanding first-half performance did eventually come three minutes before the interval when Peter Michorl drilled a low effort from 22 metres in the bottom corner. However, Spurs made it 1-1 in first-half stoppage time when Bale found the bottom corner from the penalty spot after Andres Andrade was adjudged to have handled in the box.

The men from Linz started the second period in the same dominant vein they had ended the first, yet it was Spurs who found the net with another goal against the run of play in the 54th minute. Heung-Min Son latched onto a long ball down the right flank from Tanguy Ndombélé and picked out the far corner of Alexander Schlager’s goal with a low drive to give the visitors a rather fortuitous lead. The South Korean might have added another 10 minutes later if Bale’s square ball across the face of goal had not been behind him.

Thalhammer opted to make a double substitution midway through the second period, withdrawing Andreas Gruber and Thomas Goiginger for Dominik Reiter and Mamoudou Karamoko. And the personnel switch almost brought about an immediate reward, with the Frenchman going close with an effort from a promising position on the edge of the box shortly after his introduction.

In a finale as frantic as it was thrilling, Johannes Eggestein levelled the scores with an excellent drive that beat Hart at his near post six minutes from time, only for Dele Alli to re-establish Tottenham’s lead from the spot three minutes later after a penalty had been awarded for a foul on Steven Bergwijn by James Holland. It was LASK who had the last laugh though, with Karamoko curling home a beautiful strike in second-half stoppage time. It wasn’t enough to keep their European hopes alive after Antwerp’s 3-1 win over Ludogorets, but it does mean they exit the competition with their heads held high.

The line-ups:

LASK: Schlager, Wiesinger, Renner, Michorl, Eggestein, Gruber (Reiter, 69), Madsen, Holland, Ranftl, Goiginger (Karamoko, 69), Andrade

Tottenham Hotspur: Hart, Doherty, Højbjerg, Sánchez, Son (Alli, 82), Bale (Aurier, 82), Lo Celso (Dier, 71), Tanganga, Moura (Sissoko, 65), Ndombélé (Bergwijn, 65), Davies

by Lee Wingate from The Other Bundesliga