Tottenham opens Champions League campaign with 2-2 draw at Olympiacos

Harry Kane and Tottenham Hotspur had a mostly frustrating evening in Athens on Wednesday. (Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis)

Tottenham Hotspur pulled off a surprise run to the UEFA Champions League final last season. And for a while Wednesday, it looked like the rising English club would get their 2019-20 campaign off to winning start, too.

Then Tottenham squandered its 2-0 first-half lead against Olympiacos, settling for a respectable but ultimately disappointing 2-2 draw in Athens. Here are three quick thoughts on the match:

Olympiacos deserved the point vs. Tottenham

The visitors struck twice inside the first half hour on goals by Harry Kane and Champions League specialist Lucas Moura. Kane opened the scoring from the penalty spot after being taken down in the area:

And when Moura — the hero of last spring’s semifinal triumph over Dutch titan Ajax — raced through the Greek side’s defense to double the advantage just eight minutes later, Spurs seemed destined to roll:

Yet the scoreline at that point didn’t reflect what was actually happening on the field, which was being controlled by the home side. Roared on by their rabid fans inside Karaiskakis Stadium, Olympiacos looked like the better, more dangerous team for most of the match.

That was the case before and after Spurs jumped in front. Sure enough, the hosts cut Tottenham’s advantage to one before the first half was over through Daniel Podence:

It’s still a good result for Spurs ...

Podence’s goal figured to give Olympiacos the momentum when the second half got underway. It didn’t take long for the equalizer to arrive, with Mathieu Valbuena converting the second penalty of the match to level things:

Fatigue began to catch up to the home side toward the end, giving Tottenham an opportunity for a late winner that they didn’t take. Still, while Spurs fans and manager Mauricio Pochettino alike surely wanted more, they also probably would’ve taken the point if offered before the match.

The formula for advancing in Europe’s top club competition is to win at home and tie on the road. In that regard, Pochettino’s team did what it had to do on Wednesday. Along with Bayern Munich, they remain favored to survive Group B, which also includes Red Star Belgrade.

But Spurs must improve to make another deep run

On paper, Spurs have a better squad than they did last season. On the field, they may have actually regressed. Sure, they sit third in the Premier League table after finishing in the fourth and final Champions League spot a year ago. But their record across all competitions is a less-than-inspiring two wins and three draws from six.

Not only is that sort of middling form not going to be good enough to get back to the final this season, it might not be enough to get through this foursome. Olympiacos is a good team capable of getting a result in North London in the return match. Bayern is more than capable of beating Spurs at home and the Germans will get the chance on Oct. 1. Red Star can’t be underestimated, either.

Last year was a magical season in the Champions League for Tottenham, but it’s a distant memory now. Wednesday provided a needed reality check.

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