LONDON: RB Leipzig marked their first appearance in the Champions League knockout round with a deserved 1-0 victory at last season’s runners-up Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday as their impressive campaign continued.
Timo Werner’s 58th-minute penalty after a foul by Ben Davies on Konrad Laimer was enough for Julian Nagelsmann’s Bundesliga high-flyers to take a narrow lead into the second leg on March 10, although they might rue not putting the last-16 tie to bed.
Tottenham, without injured strikers Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, were largely outplayed and will need the sort of heroics they produced at Manchester City and Ajax Amsterdam last season to keep their European quest alive.
But for inspired keeper Hugo Lloris and wayward finishing from Leipzig, they would be facing an even tougher task in the return leg.
“Leipzig are a very, very good team with a lot of energy. We had some situations that we could have managed better,” Lloris said. “We’re not really happy with the result, but we did it last season — let’s hope we try to create another story.”
Tottenham did rally late on as Leipzig appeared to settle for a narrow win and the hosts came close to equalising with the impressive Giovani Lo Celso curling a free kick against the post and Lucas Moura heading over.
But Leipzig were worthy winners and their meteoric rise since being formed 10 years ago should see them gatecrash their way into the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite tournament.
“The first 10 minutes were very noisy, very loud. In the end, it was a pleasure to be part of this game,” Nagelsmann, in his first season in charge, told reporters.
“We proved we could win in their stadium and we believe we can win in ours.”
The first German club to play at Tottenham’s magnificent new stadium were Bayern Munich in October and they marked their visit with a 7-2 humiliation of their hosts.
Leipzig, one point behind leaders Bayern in the Bundesliga, attacked the Tottenham defence with similar relish and could have scored three times in the opening three minutes.
Patrik Schick fired wide before Angelino’s shot was deflected against the post by Lloris who seconds later blocked Werner’s shot from a tight angle.
It was pretty much the pattern of a first half in which Tottenham’s defence was stretched by the pace and incisive passing of Leipzig. Schick headed another chance wide and Lloris again denied the dangerous Werner.
Steven Bergwijn forced a fine save by Peter Gulacsi in a rare Tottenham attack while Dele Alli, later substituted, failed to connect with a header but the hosts’ attacks were rare.
Leipzig finally got their noses in front when Davies clumsily took out Laimer, giving Werner the chance to net his seventh goal in the competition this season, all away from home.
“We had a good game. We had Spurs in our hands, just the goals were lacking,” Werner said.
Lloris was making his first Champions League appearance since the drubbing by Bayern, shortly after which he suffered a serious elbow injury.
Thankfully he looks back to his best as he showed with a superb save to deny Schick after Werner’s clever dummy.
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