Tottenham Hotspur winger Erik Lamela made his long-awaited return from a hip injury against Leicester City on Tuesday, playing 80 minutes in a 2-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium.
Despite the narrow loss, which has left Tottenham one point adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal in the Premier League table, Lamela said he’s “happy to be back” after spending 13 months on the treatment table.
Marc Albrighton set up Jamie Vardy to put the hosts ahead in the 13th minute. Immediately after the break, Wilfried Ndidi teed up Riyad Mahrez to double the Foxes’ advantage, giving Tottenham a mountain to climb in the second-half.
Lamela was introduced in the 77th minute and made an instant impact, assisting Harry Kane to halve the deficit with just over 10 minutes to go. Spurs could find an equaliser, however, and suffered their fourth defeat of the league campaign.
The Argentinian winger was disappointed with the result but pleased to be back on the pitch after being out of action for so long.
“It’s been a very long time fighting to get back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get well soon, but now I’m much better and very happy to be back,” he said.
“There were some very hard times but in life, you need to keep going, always looking forward. I fought every day to be good, to train, to help my team-mates. I did my best always and that’s why, today, I’m here again.
“There has been a lot of support from my team-mates, also the fans, everyone who works in the Club. Every day, every week they ask(ed) how I felt and I felt sad for them because I wanted to play.
“I wanted to bring energy and good play to the team. Today is another step. I am back on the pitch and it felt amazing to play again in front of the people. Unfortunately, we didn’t win.”
Prior to Tuesday meeting with the Foxes, Lamela’s last game in a Tottenham shirt was all the way back in 2016 (vs Bournemouth on October 22). He’ll now be hoping such injury woes are behind him so he can play a big role in the second half of the season for Spurs.