It had to happen sometime, and given the history between these two teams in the last few years, it’s not wholly surprising that it happened today. A pretty terrible Newcastle team came into White Hart Lane on a Sunday night and ended Spurs’ 14 game league unbeaten streak, with Tottenham losing 2-1 on two late Toon goals.
With Mousa Dembele out with a foot injury, Mauricio Pochettino gave the start to fan favorite Tom "Body of Willow, Heart of Oak" Carroll, with Carroll slotting beside Eric Dier and Dele Alli moving into Dembele’s spot in an advanced midfield role, flanked by Christian Eriksen on the left and Erik Lamela on the right. Harry Kane, who was rested on Thursday for Spurs’ 4-1 win over AS Monaco in the Europa League, returned to lead the line at striker.
Spurs were comfortable in possession and lively going forward, with Kane whipping in an early chance that forced a low parry from Newcastle ‘keeper Rob Elliot. The first 15 minutes of the match were controlled comfortably by Spurs, save a scary interchange between Newcastle frontmen Siem de Jong and Papiss Cisse that ultimately came to nothing.
Spurs had an injury worry in the middle of the first half, when Kyle Walker clattered shins with a Newcastle player and looked to have been seriously hurt. Walker, who had made several positive contributions up to that point, was able to continue. Spurs wobbled a little in the middle of the first half, sending hopeful long balls down the pitch to little effect, but were sparked back to life by several incisive runs by Erik Lamela, both of which were saved by Elliot.
The first half ended in glorious fashion for Tottenham: Eric Dier, he of much head, got said head on the end of a Christian Eriksen corner after losing Fabrizio Coloccini. He headed the ball in the goal off a corner, is what I’m saying.
Danny Rose, who was mostly bad in this match, could have either taken a shot on an open goal or laid the ball off to an oncoming Lamela, but instead chose the third, crappier option, trying to thread a pass into Harry Kane on the far post. Despite that disappointing passage of play, Spurs went into half very much the better team, and up 1-0.
The second half started cagily, with both teams poking at the ball without creating real chances save a Harry Kane snap shot from outside the box that Elliot did well to parry away. As the half wore on, however, Newcastle began to gain momentum as the game ground on. Newcastle manager Steve McLaren made two game-deciding substitutions, bringing Ayoze Perez on for Joel McHale Lookalike Contest winner Siem de Jong and Aleksander Mitrovic on for Papiss Cisse in the 63rd and 71st minutes respectively. Pochettino countered by subbing Tom Carroll off for Son Heung-min in the 68th minute, a move that had little effect on Spurs’ dire play.
The wheels came off for Spurs a minute and half later; Danny Rose was given a yellow card for a handball on Newcastle’s right flank; the resulting free kick caused a scramble in the box, and Mitrovic was there to poke the loose ball into the net for Newcastle’s first goal.
From there it felt inevitable that the game would get away from the home team; tired passing and sloppy possession led to further chances for the Toon, would could well have scored several times over if not for incisive center-back play from Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
Pochettino’s search for a winning goal led him to sub on Nacer Chadli for Erik Lamela in the 85th minute. The substitution felt right at the time; Chadli has a knack for scoring clutch goals, and a clutch goal was what Spurs needed. Chadli, however, failed to impact the game in any positive way.
And then, in the 92nd minute, Ayoze Perez scored after making a run past right side of the Tottenham defense. Hugo Lloris should have done better to stop the shot, but Newcastle had been the dominant team for much of the last 20 minutes and the decisive goal was deserved.
- Man, I felt so, so good about that first half, and then minutes 45-94 happened. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion or a lack of focus or what, but you could actually see this team seizing up like an overheated engine as the second half progressed.
- So Tom Carroll got his first Premier League start for Spurs. From where I sat, that was about all you could say about that. We clearly miss Mousa Dembele. Get well soon.
- There was one bright spot in this match: Erik Lamela. He tackled, he was available in space, he made incisive runs and troubled Rob Elliot on more than one occasion.
- I had ONE DIER’D TRICK written as my headline for this match report at the end of the first half, and I will never, ever forgive Spurs for effing that up.
- Ever since the 5-goal drubbing Spurs gave Newcastle in the last year of the reign of Harry Redknapp, after which ‘Arry’s head was turned by the England job and Spurs fell completely apart, I have dreaded fixtures against the Toon. They always feel portentous to me, no matter the outcome. Bad shit happens after you’ve spent time on the pitch with Newcastle United Football Club.
- Glad to be back writing for CFC. Just wish it was under better circumstances.