TOTTENHAM 1 Soldado 6 FIORENTINA 1 Basanta 36 This was a night that started so well for Spurs yet ended tamely. Mauricio Pochettino's side are certainly still in this tie but they go to Florence next week having conceded an away goal when they could, in reality, have been celebrating a convincing win.
Not even Harry Kane, a second-half substitute here, could inspire a late period of pressure. Instead, Fiorentina played out the game with comfort, Jose Maria Basanta cancelling out Roberto Soldado's early goal to give La Viola the edge ahead of an intriguing second leg in Tuscany.
Pochettino will rue his team’s inability to capitalise on an opening half-hour which was, from a Tottenham perspective, pulsating. Spurs’ attacking play flowed and the chances came, but after conceding a soft goal in the 36th minute they never quite regained the same rhythm.
Soldado has struggled for goals this season and was a surprise starter here in place of the in-form Harry Kane, but you would not have thought he had only scored four this season previously. Tottenham were rampant and Fiorentina struggled to cope with Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli on the flanks.
It was the striker, though, who created Spurs' best early chance during a first-half of many. La Viola had already appeared slightly rattled at the back, with their three-man defence of Stefan Savic, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Basanta often exposed out wide as Soldado slipped Chadli into the penalty area in a central position.
The Belgian shuffled and hit a low shot at goal with his right foot, which was well kept out by Ciprian Tatarusanu. However, from the resulting corner Tottenham had their opener. Paulinho drifted the ball to the far post where Soldado was waiting unmarked and the result was emphatic, thumping a low volley into the bottom corner.
Quite a finish for man who had not scored since December and, in the 20th minute, he almost added a spectacular second. Christian Eriksen’s deflected cross from the right looped high into the area, where Soldado’s sublime bicycle kick found the arms of Tatarusanu.
Spurs were dominant but could not make the pressure pay. Townsend was tormenting Basanta down the right but, in the end, it was the Fiorentina defender who had the last laugh, equalising nine minutes before half-time with a goal that, from Tottenham’s perspective, was a hugely soft one to concede.
Soldado cynically tripped Joaquin on the left edge of the penalty area and from the resulting free-kick Montella's side were level. Matias Fernandez whipped in a dangerous ball to the near post and Hugo Lloris could only frantically palm it onto a Fiorentina player. It fell to Basanta, who prodded home from close range to send the purple hordes wild.
Spurs should have retaken the lead before half-time and were centimetres away from doing so. Soldado’s glancing header was palmed into the path of Chadli by Tatarusanu, but the Belgian could not twist his foot around the ball, which scooped up onto the crossbar and bounced back off the line.
The second-half almost began disastrously for Spurs but Mohamed Salah’s first-time effort flew narrowly wide from the edge of the penalty area.
Spurs, however, were not playing with anywhere near the same tempo as in the opening 30 minutes. The locals were craving for Kane’s introduction and, in the 66th minute, got their wish, rising for a player who has become a firm fans’ favourite in recent weeks.
Fiorentina almost stole a late victory when the substitute Marcos Alonso received the ball out wide down the left and fired the ball across goal, but Mario Gomez could not find the crucial touch. Guardian Service TOTTENHAM: Lloris, Walker, Fazio, Vertonghen, Davies, Townsend (Lamela 73), Paulinho (Mason 84), Bentaleb, Chadli (Kane 66), Eriksen, Soldado. Subs not used: Vorm, Rose, Dier, Dembele. Booked: Soldado. FIORENTINA: Tatarusanu, Savic, Rodriguez, Pizarro, Basanta, Joaquin, Fernandez, Valero (Badelj 78), Pasqual (Alonso 65), Salah, Gomez (Ilicic 84). Subs not used: Neto, Richards, Aquilani, El Babacar. Booked: Rodriguez, Savic. Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain).