Sigurdsson spares Spurs blushes

The Bolton News: Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the equaliser for Tottenham Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the equaliser for Tottenham

Gylfi Sigurdsson helped Tottenham rescue a point in Slovenia after an inept performance at NK Maribor saw them slump to a 1-1 draw, their third successive Europa League stalemate.

The Vijolicasti lost home and away to npower Championship side Birmingham in last season's competition yet took the lead three minutes from half-time when Robert Beric prodded home.

Former Swansea midfielder Sigurdsson has yet to find his feet since his summer arrival, but went some way to repaying the north Londoners' faith by lashing home to ensure his side did not leave the Stadion Ljudski vrt empty-handed. The point leaves Spurs third in Group J at the halfway point.

The visitors dominated the early possession in Slovenia's second city and took two minutes to get away their first shot, with Sigurdsson shooting wide after collecting a cross from Kyle Walker. Maribor found the net four minutes later through Beric, although the striker had already been flagged offside.

Agim Ibraimi saw a looped effort denied by Hugo Lloris as the home side looked for a surprise opener in a first half of few chances. Walker lashed a 20-yard effort harmlessly wide and Jan Vertonghen saw a tame header easily caught by Jasmin Handanovic as Tottenham pushed for the evening's first goal.

Sandro came close with a fierce 25-yard drive that drifted just wide, before Jermain Defoe directed over from the Brazil international's cutback. Andre Villas-Boas' side almost paid for their profligacy in front of goal after 39 minutes when Ales Mejac found space to hit a hopeful 30-yard strike just wide.

It was a warning Tottenham failed to heed and three minutes later Maribor made them pay. Dejan Mezga did superbly down the left and skipped past Tom Huddlestone's challenge, before dinking the ball over Lloris for under-pressure Beric to stab home.

Villas-Boas replaced the ineffective Andros Townsend with Yago Falque for the second half but it was Maribor who were first to threaten. Mejac ran down the left four minutes after the restart and played through Tavares, whose goalbound prod was easily denied by Lloris but by the 58th minute the score was level.

Substitute Falque's cross from the left fell for Defoe, whose thumping effort was somehow cleared off the line but fell straight for Sigurdsson to score from close range. Ibraimi struck the side-netting as Maribor looked to make an immediate response, before Defoe and Walker produced strikes at the other end.

Kyle Naughton was booked for diving as Tottenham desperately searched for a winner, which left them exposed at the back and saw Beric come close to directing home. Sub Clint Dempsey tested Handanovic as Spurs desperately searched for a winner, which never came despite Vertonghen's best efforts late on.

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