Sod a fistful of droopy roses and a half-eaten box of Milk Tray, the real romance was at White Hart Lane. Gareth Frank Bale was, again, the focus of a shower of manly lovehearts.
Two exocet free-kicks in first and second half stoppage time brought rare and delightful light to a mostly scrappy encounter. The Europa League dream continues for another week at least.
The decision to rest ‘sweeper keeper’ Hugo Lloris against his old club was predictable, but as disappointing for fans as for the ex-Lyon player. Goalkeeper is the one position where a rest is not required, especially given Spurs’ light schedule of two Europa League games in 16 days. It was a needless tinker by Andre Villas-Boas. I hope to see Lloris back on his old stomping ground in the second leg next week. He’ll be needed.
Lyon showed commendable defensive resolve and threatened rather than alarmed Spurs. They were good value for a draw before that man Bale wrote yet more headlines with his third free-kick goal in two games. Previously, every Spurs set-piece goal was synced with Halley’s Comet.
The home side often looked leaden in position as if no-one had told them they weren’t playing on the Sunday. With his wild new hairstyle, Emmanuel Adebayor resembled Chirpy’s crazed Togolese cousin. The unkempt strands of hair frequently found themselves in an offside position, but they did provide a much needed focal point for Spurs’ rare forays into the final third.
Early on, Lennon and Walker dovetailed efficiently and one surging Walker run and slotted pass picked out Bale perfectly with the net gaping like a Z-List Towie celebrity. Somehow he contrived to miss – clearly it was too close for a Gareth Bale goal.
The ball rarely left a packed midfield, but then as the first half drew to a close the Welsh maestro stroked in a precocious 36-yard free-kick to take the edge off Spurs nerves.
In the second half, Lyon responded well with a fierce Umtitti strike that left Brad Friedel looking more flatfooted than usual. Those unfortunate enough not to be at the game and with a faulty mute button were subjected to the inane ramblings of Clive Tyldesley and fake Irishman Andy Townsend. Tyldersley, who treats a Manchester United defeat like the passing of a terminally ill child, was hysterical on the Lyon equaliser.
Spurs looked off the pace and found it difficult to forge clearcut chances though veteran Friedel made a sharp save on the rare occasion where Lyon found space in the Spurs' rearguard.
Yet just when it seemed the game would peter out into a draw, Bale stepped up to steer another free kick ludicrously past Lyon keeper Vercoutre. He's so overrated.