Tottenham Hotspur put together a Spurs/AVB special on Saturday, playing one half of excellent football and one half of abysmal football, with the true meltdown starting at about the hour mark. The good news for Spurs is that a couple of brilliant players, combined with the lack of quality on Southampton, allowed them to hold onto a 2-1 victory.
Gareth Bale, who returned to the team after taking two matches off to spend time with his newborn child, headed in the opening goal after 15 minutes. Tom Huddlestone, who was making his first Premier League start of the season, assisted with a great chip into the box that Bale nodded in.
Shortly before halftime, Clint Dempsey poked in an insurance goal for Spurs that would eventually turn out to be greatly needed. Aaron Lennon created it with a great run through the center and a ball out wide to Jermain Defoe, who put in a cross that deflected off a Southampton defender towards the goal. Jose Fonte cleared off the line, but Dempsey was in the perfect position to poke in the goal.
Spurs looked less composed to start the second half, but the excrement hit the fan after Huddlestone, who did not look 90-minutes fit, exited the game for Jake Livermore. Though Livermore was not directly responsible for any Southampton chances, Spurs looked much less composed with a young player with less quality on the ball in the center of midfield.
The Saints' goal came off a corner in the 66th minute. An unmarked Jose Fonte headed on target at the near post, and Brad Friedel barely punched away. He only got the ball as far as Jay Rodriguez, who finished to bring Southampton back into the match.
Southampton was well on top for the rest of the match and had numerous chances to equalize, but didn't have the quality to create another goal. Tottenham will be happy to leave St. Mary's with three points, but their performance was far from convincing.
- The game changed when Huddlestone came off. This is not Jake Livermore's fault, and it's understandable that Andre Villas-Boas didn't have another deep-lying passer in the team, but if Livermore was going to come in, Gylfi Sigurdsson needed to come in at the same time.
- Even though Jermain Defoe had an assist, he was largely poor today. We need Emmanuel Adebayor back.
- Huddlestone is a brilliant technical player and good enough to play a role at the moment, but he still looks a step off the pace.
- Aaron Lennon was my man of the match. He's improved quite a bit from last season to this season.
- Sandro was close to man of the match. He's incredibly consistent at the moment.
- Kyle Walker made less mistakes than normal against Chelsea before his big mistake, was solid against Maribor, and was solid in this game. I'm very hopeful that he's getting back to solid form.
- Three points is three points. We weren't good, but we won. Winning is good.