New manager Conte gets up close and uncomfortable with Spurs

Tottenham go three goals up after 28 minutes before letting Dutch side back into game

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Vitesse Arnhem 2

Three goals to the good inside 28 minutes, it felt as though Antonio Conte was set fair to enjoy himself on the occasion of his first game in charge of Tottenham. But that would have been to overestimate his new team's capacity to make life easy for themselves.

Nobody should ever do that and at least Conte has now had his first sight – up close and uncomfortable – of what he must fix as the club seek to put the problems of the recent past behind them.

Spurs were good in an attacking sense for that first portion of this Europa League Conference tie, which was marred by fighting in the Vitesse section of the stadium. But they were wobbly at the back throughout. They would concede twice before half-time and, when Cristian Romero was sent off in the 59th minute, it became extremely edgy for them.


Vitesse pushed and yet when they could find the equaliser, they imploded themselves, having the captain, Daniho Doekhi, sent off on 81 minutes for dragging down Harry Kane – a second bookable offence – and then the goalkeeper, Markus Schubert, for handball outside his area. Welcome to Spurs, Antonio.

Conte was in no mood to mess around. He went full power with his starting XI – a stark contrast to the shadow side that Nuno had fielded two weeks ago in the 1-0 defeat in Arnhem – and the only risk was in the change to the formation. Conte had not seen it that way. Spurs are not used to three at the back but he has felt wedded to it and so he asked Ben Davies to start on the left of the last line. Tanguy Ndombele was squeezed out of the line-up.

There was a buzz at the outset, with Conte warmly welcomed by the home fans – he responded with applause to all corners of the stadium – and he would get the early goal that he craved. It was a mess from a Vitesse point of view. Conte did not care.

Markus Schubert did well to block from Lucas Moura, who had been released by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg but, when the ball broke and Kane piled in, the Vitesse goalkeeper's attempt to paw it clear sent the ball off the prone Riechedly Bazoer and to Son, who hammered home.

It was fast and furious, with Spurs not exactly inspiring confidence at the back. During the first half, it was no exaggeration to say that Vitesse looked dangerous whenever they went forward. Conte’s messages had not got through. The communication was not there in the defensive unit. There were spaces everywhere.

Davies got away with one when he caught Nikolai Baden Frederiksen inside the area and the Vitesse winger dragged wide when well placed. At 1-0, Doekhi headed off target.

Vitesse were similarly high and loose at the back and Spurs took advantage, playing through them with ease. Emerson Royal and Sergio Reguilón pressed high in the wing back roles; Son shimmered with menace.

Son had seen a second minute shot cleared off the line by Bazoer and he would rattle the near post on 21 minutes. By then, Kane had sent Moura away for 2-0 and Spurs' third came shortly after Son had put the ball in the net only to be called back for a debatable offside. Davies crossed low and Jacob Rasmussen bundled into his own net under pressure from Kane.

Back came Vitesse. As the crowd trouble erupted inside the visiting enclosure, Hugo Lloris tipped over from Sondre Tronstad and, from the ensuing corner, Rasmussen got above Eric Dier to head home. Vitesse had hope. Then they had another goal. Moura gave the ball away and Yann Gboho played in Matus Bero, who finished coolly.

The interval was a chance to exhale and rake over the chaos in the stands. It flared on the half hour and rumbled on for a good few minutes, luminous-bibbed stewards battling to restore order, pushing back the Vitesse fans, some of whom appeared to hurl projectiles.

Conte stood on the edge of his technical area from the first whistle, breaking away at times to consult his staff, and there was much to perturb him, taking in the sloppy start that his team made to the second half. Vitesse introduced the pace of Loïs Openda and their 5-4-1 system began to look more like 3-4-3. They pushed, sensing weakness in their opponents. Openda danced inside Reguilón and forced Lloris to tip over the crossbar. – Guardian