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French keeper Hugo Lloris star performer as Tottenham Hotspur hold Lazio to goalless draw in Europa League
10:16pm Thursday 22nd November 2012 in Local Sport
Tottenham could not deliver their battered and bruised fans victory over Lazio, but their Hugo Lloris-inspired goalless draw at the Stadio Olimpico means they are one step closer to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Libor Kozak, making a rare start, missed a hatful of chances for the hosts, but Lloris was equally important in keeping Lazio at bay. The Frenchman, chosen ahead of Brad Friedel, denied Kozak twice in the first half and was a steady and assuring presence throughout.
Tottenham rarely threatened - although Gareth Bale's early strike should not have been ruled out for offside. But Panathinaikos' victory over Maribor means Tottenham only have to draw their final game at home to the Greeks next month to qualify.
Their draw against the Rome-based club did not come without controversy as Lazio fans chanted "Juden Tottenham" at the away fans at the end of a troubled 24 hours for the visiting fans. One Tottenham fan was in hospital on Thursday night after being stabbed in the skull and thigh during an attack on a bar in the city centre in the early hours of the day.
Guest of honour Paul Gascoigne's emotional lap of honour had whipped up the feelings of both sets of fans, and the game started off with a bang for the away side.
Spurs should have been 1-0 up after just four minutes when Bale latched on to Tom Carroll's through ball and rounded Federico Marchetti, but the linesman incorrectly ruled the goal offside.
Tottenham went close when Bale picked out Gylfi Sigurdsson, but Stefan Radu intervened to prevent the shot.
The home crowd were roused in the 18th minute as Lloris palmed Cristian Ledesma's 30-yard shot on to the bar. The former Lyon man quickly made amends by getting to his feet and forcing Alvaro Gonzalez wide with the follow-up.
Spurs were struggling to get in to the game as Kyle Walker's slip allowed Kozak to break through, but Lloris saved the striker's shot with his out-stretched leg.
Lazio split the Spurs defence again just before half-time to send Kozak through, but Lloris came to the rescue again, storming off his line to clear.
Kozak continued to miss chances in the second half first dragging a shot wide before hitting straight at Lloris five minutes later.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas brought Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon off the bench to give them the cutting edge they lacked. Ledesma then bent a free-kick over the wall and just wide of Lloris' goal as Lazio continued to threaten.
Villas-Boas then brought on Mousa Dembele for his first match in more than a month as Tottenham looked to hold on for the point.
Lloris clattered in to a post as he challenged for a cross with Stefano Mauri and then cleared off the line with six minutes to go from Michael Ciani's header.