Hojbjerg goal earns Spurs draw with Rennes in Conference League
Substitute Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s equaliser allowed Tottenham Hotspur to come away with a 2-2 draw from their trip to France to play Rennes in the new Europa Conference League on Thursday.
Loic Bade’s own goal had given Spurs the lead in an entertaining encounter in Brittany but Flavien Tait equalised and Gaetan Laborde put Rennes ahead in the 72nd minute.
That lead was swiftly cancelled out by Hojbjerg and in the circumstances it is a good result for Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham side, who were on the rebound from their 3-0 drubbing at Crystal Palace last weekend.
The result also pleased the Rennes support who, frustrated at recent performances, had unfurled a giant banner before kick-off with the message in English: “Are you ready to fight?”
While finishing in the Premier League top four and returning to the Champions League has to take priority for Spurs, they would be wise not to neglect a competition which offers a realistic route to silverware for a club that has not won anything since the League Cup in 2008.
Their next game in Group G is against Slovenian champions Mura, on paper the weakest team in the group and who lost 2-0 at home to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday.
However this was hardly a smooth trip to France for Tottenham before they face Chelsea at the weekend.
They were forced to spend Wednesday night 100 kilometres away in the town of Saint-Brieuc because an international farming exhibition in Rennes this week meant a shortage of hotel rooms.
Nuno then lost both his starting wingers, Steven Bergwijn and Lucas Moura, to knocks during the game.
Quiet night for Kane
The coach had made seven changes from the Crystal Palace debacle, with Son Heung-min among the players left behind in England while Hugo Lloris was one of those left on the bench.
Harry Kane, whose only goals so far this season came against Pacos de Ferreira of Portugal in the play-off round, did play and wore the captain’s armband.
The visitors took the lead inside 11 minutes when Kane released Lucas down the right flank and the Brazilian’s low ball across goal was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Bade.
However Rennes are an ambitious club, having spent in the region of 80 million euros ($94m) on new signings in the summer window.
They drew level midway through the first half when Tait brought the ball down beautifully, played a one-two with Serhou Guirassy and curled a fine low shot beyond Pierluigi Gollini in goal.
Kane had a quiet evening although he did force a save from Rennes ‘keeper Romain Salin late in the first half. He was taken off not long after the break to make way for 17-year-old Dane Scarlett.
The 21,500 Rennes fans then saw their team go in front when Laborde tapped in after Gollini had turned out Kamaldeen Sulemana’s shot. It was a first Rennes goal for the striker, a recent 15 million-euro buy from Montpellier.
However Spurs were level four minutes later when Tait could only help Matt Doherty’s cross from the right on to Hojbjerg, and the Danish midfielder pounced to score.
The Conference League is the new third-tier of European club competition and features just one team from each of the continent’s biggest leagues.
Roma are Italy’s representatives and Jose Mourinho’s side play CSKA Sofia later on Thursday.
Union Berlin, the only German team, face Slavia Prague, while there is no Spanish team at all because would-be representative Villarreal won the Europa League and thereby qualified for the Champions League.