LONDON – Tottenham Hotspur’s Europa League campaign got off to a frustrating start as they were beaten 1-0 by mid-table Belgian outfit Gent in their last 32, first leg tie on Thursday despite fielding a strong side.
Spurs, who have dropped into the competition from the Champions League, were off color throughout the match and were undone in the second half when journeyman French striker Jeremy Perbet stroked home at the second attempt on the hour.
Olympique Lyonnais made light work of AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands as they began the knockout phase with Alexandre Lacazette scoring twice in a 4-1 victory, while Fiorentina edged Borussia Moenchengladbach 1-0 in Germany.
Spurs arrived in Belgium looking to restore pride in north London football after Arsenal were thrashed 5-1 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday but were stifled in a poor performance and were lucky to escape with a one-goal deficit.
After Perbet scored, Gent, eighth in the Belgian league, had a golden chance to double their lead but Danijel Miličević’s effort was tipped onto the post by keeper Hugo Lloris.
Spurs made only two changes from the team that were beaten 2-0 by Liverpool in the Premier League on Saturday.
Yet apart from a Harry Kane effort that hit the post early in the second half, they had few chances and Gent comfortably held on to take a slender lead into next week’s second leg.
Gladbach came into their encounter with Fiorentina on a hot streak having won their last four games and they dominated possession and made several chances against the Italians.
The Serie A side were resilient at the back, however, and grabbed the only goal when Federico Bernardeschi fired home a fine free-kick in the dying seconds of the first half.
Lyon will take a commanding lead into their second leg against AZ Alkmaar after teenager Lucas Tousart scored his first senior goal for the club and Jordan Ferri rounded off the scoring in stoppage time either side of Lacazette’s double.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh had reduced the deficit for AZ with a 68th-minute penalty.
Elsewhere, Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 at Celta Vigo with a 27th-minute goal from Gustavo Blanco Leschuk, while Sparta Prague were thrashed 4-0 at Rostov and FC Krasnodar beat visitors Fenerbahce 1-0.