Tottenham ended their preparations for the new Premier League season with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Roma as Jose Mourinho tasted victory against his former club in Israel.
Paulo Dybala was handed his debut for the Serie A club after completing his free transfer from Juventus earlier this week, and it was the Argentine’s corner that was headed in by Roger Ibanez in the 29th minute at the Haifa International Stadium.
In sweltering conditions, the players were afforded drinks breaks in either half, and while Spurs emerged unscathed from a typically fiery encounter involving Antonio Conte’s side, Mourinho would inflict a first defeat of pre-season on his former employers.
Totteham: Lloris (7), Doherty (7), Romero (7), Dier (6), Sanchez (7), Perisic (8), Hojbjerg (7), Bissouma (6), Kulusevski (6), Kane (6), Son (5).
Subs: Forster (n/a), Royal (6), Lenglet (7), Sessegnon (6), Bentancur (6), Lucas (6), Richarlison (7).
Roma: Patricio (6), Mancini (6), Smalling (7), Ibanez (8), Karsdrop (6), Cristante (6), Pellegrini (7), Zalewski (6), Zaniolo (6), Dybala (7), Abraham (7).
Subs: Matic (6), Celik (6), Spinazzola (6), El Shaarawy (n/a).
Man of the match: Ivan Perisic.
Ivan Perisic and Yves Bissouma were handed their first starts for Spurs since their summer moves, with the former looking bright and going close on three occasions to scoring from distance, while Harry Kane missed a late headed chance from Ryan Sessegnon’s centre to equalise.
Roma had been the stronger side in the first half, and Dybala might have capped his debut with a goal inside the opening 60 seconds when he swept Nicolo Zaniolo’s cutback goalwards only to be denied by an instinctive double save from Hugo Lloris.
Kane would also be denied in the opening 45 minutes by an offside call after finding the bottom corner following good link-up play with Dejan Kulusevski, but chances were at a premium during a heavily-interrupted second half involving multiple substitutions.
Kane felt he ought to have earned a penalty when he latched onto Lucas Moura’s pass and appeared to be dragged to the ground inside the box by Ibanez, but the referee awarded a free-kick to Roma for a flailing arm.
Despite failing to register a shot on target, Conte will be encouraged by the performances of his new signings with Clement Lenglet and Richarlison showing moments of promise after the restart, with a brilliant moment of invention from the Brazilian late on nearly leading to a shooting opportunity.
Conte, like Mourinho, is a serial winner, so finishing pre-season on a losing note will frustrate him with the majority of those starting against Roma likely to do the same next weekend.
Analysis: Perisic the stand-out for Spurs
Sky Sports football journalist Ben Grounds:
“A sweet moment for Jose Mourinho then, who loves winning no matter what is on offer, especially against a former club. The Portuguese spent 17 months at Tottenham, but he failed to deliver the silverware so sought after by Daniel Levy.
“Roma are reinventing themselves under his watch, and in Paulo Dybala they have the jewel who can be the difference maker. The Roma fans who greeted him in their thousands this week acknowledge as much, and it was his corner which ultimately led to the decisive moment in this friendly.
“Dybala really ought to have capped his debut with a goal inside the opening minute, twice denied by Lloris from close range in the same phase of play but as he departed on 60 minutes, he could reflect on a good night’s work.
“For Conte, he faces a selection headache this week ahead of the Premier League opener with Southampton. Who partners Eric Dier and Cristian Romero in defence?
“What combination does he opt for in midfield? Who are his starting wing-backs? Ryan Sessegnon did very little wrong when he was introduced, but Ivan Perisic showed his class on his first start.
“On this evidence, I would be surprised if he is not in the XI against the Saints.”
Tottenham begin their Premier League campaign next Saturday at home to Southampton (kick-off 3pm), while Roma complete their pre-season programme with a friendly against Shakhtar Donetsk on the same day.