Europa League: Spurs progress but could face disciplinary fine

 
Frank Dalleres
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Benjamin Stambouli scored his first Tottenham goal as Spurs beat Partizan Belgrade last night
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 PARTIZAN BELGRADE 0

TOTTENHAM could face disciplinary action after victory over Partizan Belgrade and progress to the Europa League knockout stage was marred by three separate pitch invasions inside the first 45 minutes.

Players were taken off and the match halted for 10 minutes when a third man evaded stewards just before half-time -- shortly after which Benjamin Stambouli scored the only goal. The protagonists are believed to have been part of an ambush marketing stunt.

Spurs said three men were arrested and were last night assisting police with their enquiries. “We apologise to fans for disruptions caused by this totally unacceptable behaviour,” the club added.

Tottenham moved quickly to remove from their website advertisements for a headphone brand linked with the apparent stunt and which has a licensing arrangement with Tottenham and five other Premier League clubs.

BassBuds distanced itself from the incident, saying on Twitter it was “appalled” and did “not condone the interruption of a sporting fixture in this way”. White Hart Lane sources indicated they were not prejudging the matter but preventing any damaging association in the short term.

Tottenham could face punishment ranging from a fine to a match behind closed doors or a points deduction if charged, though a financial penalty looks the most likely sanction. Basel were fined last season by governing body Uefa after Greenpeace activists hijacked a Champions League game with Schalke.

Manager Mauricio Pochettino said he was “personally very disappointed”. He added: “It's a very strange situation and very disappointing but it's important now that we focus on the next game.” Partizan coach Marko Nikolic called it “a strange thing to be part of”.

Spurs went ahead in the 49th minute when Stambouli scored his first for the club since a summer transfer from Montpellier, the Frenchman tucking into an empty net after Roberto Soldado’s dinked effort struck the post. The win leaves Pochettino’s men with a two-point lead at the top of Group C.