After a disappointing loss away in Belgium last time out, Spurs hosted Anderlecht at White Hart Lane where they hoped to get their Europa League campaign back on track. Despite a little wobble late in the second half, Spurs survived to go top of their Europa League group.
However, the first twenty minutes started very slowly for Tottenham Hotspur. Only three minutes in, Erik Lamela gave the ball away in midfield and Jan Vertonghen had to make a heroic last gasp tackle in the box to save the day. Spurs controlled the majority of possession, but failed to create many real chances. Lamela had one good opportunity where he juked his way into the box, but his failure to have a right foot meant he fell down trying to contort his body into shape to shoot awkwardly with his left. Meanwhile, Spurs looked very vulnerable to Anderlecht's counters, and shortly thereafter Ryan Mason had to be the hero with a diving challenge to deprive Okaka in the box.
Spurs finally made the breakthrough in the 29th minute, when Mason did well to find Eriksen in the space between the lines outside the box. Harry Kane made a gorgeous lateral run to shake the Anderlecht defenders, Eriksen found his run, and Kane lashed a beauty into the back of the net. It was the kind of moment where you could feel the goal coming as soon as you saw Kane make the move into open space. It's a feeling we haven't had about Kane often this year, but with five goals in his last three games, he looks well and truly back.
Spurs saw off the half comfortably with a few more half chances and conceded very few opportunities for Anderlecht to impose themselves on the game. It could have been two to end the half as Alli had a penalty shout denied, but it was not to be.
In the second half, Spurs came out of the gates and the match flipped on its head. Unlike the first half, Anderlecht now dominated possession with Spurs looking to increase their lead on the break. Spurs had a few chances to counter early on, but a few wayward final balls fizzled our potential goalscoring chances.
The 58th minute saw the return of Heung-Min Son, which proved to be a turning point in the match--though not the one Spurs fans hoped for. Son looked very rusty out there, just like a guy coming back from a long injury layoff, and with Eriksen going off Spurs struggled mightily. Anderlecht started pushing hard for the equalizer, and they found it in the 71st minute. Substitute Imoh Ezekiel got on the end of a deep cross behind the Spurs back line and did well to steer his finish just inside the near post.
From then on, Anderlecht looked the team most likely to score, and Spurs had to repel waves of attacks to avoid capitulating entirely. Pochettino responded by bringing on Mousa Dembele for Ryan Mason and then Josh Onomah for Dele Alli. The two subs did little to stem the tide, but they both played their part in the decider.
Against the run of play, Son sprung a counter with long pass dumped into the far left channel, and Onomah did brilliantly to keep the ball in play and retain possession under pressure. Onomah dropped it back for the onrushing Davies, who played a nice one-two with Dembele at the top of the box. Davies sent a cross in to Son, who took the ball down with his chest. Son showed fabulous awareness to not force a shot under pressure, and he smartly laid the ball off to an unmarked Dembele. Dembele made no mistake from distance and rocketed an absolute monster of a shot into the upper 90.
For the second game running, Spurs struggled to see out a comfortable match, but once again Spurs managed to battle back and see out the game as winners. We head into the North London Derby this weekend top of our group, and pushing for a Champions League spot in the league. Roll on Arsenal.
- It was Dembele's third goal in as many games, the first time he's managed that feat in over NINE years. He's in brilliant form right now, and despite the return of Son, I can't see a version of Spurs' best team that doesn't include him.
- Speaking of Son, he looked shaky coming back from injury, but he'll surely find his feet soon. He did really well in the build up to the equalizer, and once he settles down he should be awesome again.
- Trippier was getting destroyed down his flank. He's a serviceable backup, but he has yet to prove he's got anything more to offer. He wasn't helped by having Eriksen and Son ahead of him instead of Lamela, neither of whom cover as well as the Argentine.
- Meanwhile, Toby Alderweireld must have cut out a dozen crosses from the right flank, and he was mostly phenomenal at the back.
- That said, Okaka was a real handful for him and Jan, and I'm surprised that guy isn't playing for a better team. He looks well-suited for the Prem.
- Dembele had a poor strike from distance that rolled tamely into the keeper's arms, prompting this gem.
Good call m8