Antonio Conte’s Tottenham tenure got off to a winning start as Spurs held on for a 3-2 victory against Vitesse in an action-packed Europa Conference League game that saw three red cards.
Life after Nuno Espirito Santo began brilliantly for Spurs, with Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and an own goal from Jacob Rasmussen giving them a firm grip on the game after just 28 minutes.
However, Rasmussen atoned for his error and Matus Bero brought Vitesse – who won the reverse fixture 1-0 – back to within a goal of restoring parity before half-time, with a previously jubilant Tottenham Hotspur Stadium falling flat.
Romero’s second booking with 30 minutes remaining increased the pressure on Conte’s men, but Danilo Doekhi and Markus Schubert also received their marching orders in the final 10 minutes as Vitesse missed a chance to complete a historic comeback.
Ben Davies was perhaps fortunate not to concede a third-minute penalty for a clumsy tackle on Nikolai Frederiksen and Spurs took advantage of that reprieve, Son scoring on the follow-up after Schubert failed to hang onto an effort from Lucas.
First goal under Antonio Conte.
Nice one, Sonny! pic.twitter.com/Xy8ehAQe7B
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) November 4, 2021
Son rattled the upright but Tottenham soon stormed clear as Lucas added a cool finish to Harry Kane’s throughball and Rasmussen scored an own goal while attempting to stop Kane steering Davies’ mishit shot home.
Hugo Lloris did brilliantly to tip Sondre Tronstad’s long-range shot over the crossbar, but Rasmussen headed home from the resulting corner and Bero punished a mistake from Lucas to curb the enthusiasm that was building in the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The pace of the game was far slower after the restart and Spurs were reduced to 10 men when Romero received a second yellow card for pulling down Lois Openda.
Vitesse’s hopes of completing the comeback and causing an upset evaporated in the closing stages, though, as Doekhi committed a second bookable offence and Schubert got a straight red for handling outside his area.
What does it mean? Something to build on
Conceding two goals in seven first-half minutes will not have pleased Conte, but the way his team stoically made sure of the win in difficult circumstances will have.
With their next five Premier League games coming against teams that currently sit below them in the table, the new coach has a great chance to quickly turn their fortunes around.
They also sit second in Group G and could qualify by winning their next game against Mura if other results go their way.
After going close in the second minute, it did not take much longer for Son to get Tottenham off the mark under Conte. He has now scored Spurs’ first goal under each of their past three permanent head coaches.
Problems at the back
Romero picked up two bookings for tackles he really did not need to make, while Eric Dier’s marking of Rasmussen was questionable on Vitesse’s first goal and Davies was lucky not to concede an early penalty. Conte’s three-man defence looked anything but solid.
Conte’s Premier League return will be made at Everton on Sunday, when Vitesse host Utrecht in the Eredivisie.
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