Tottenham Hotspur secured a massive 2-1 victory over Watford F.C. at Vicarage Road. The match began with what must have been a universal double take for Spurs supporters as Tottenham's trusted 4-2-3-1 formation was dropped for a 3-4-2-1 setup. Eric Dier, usually crushing tackles in the defensive midfield spot, was sat all the way back in between Vertonghen and Alderweireld. At first it looked like he was just being *really* defensive, until it became clear that he was actually playing slightly behind the Belgian center-back duo.
In the 5th minute, Dele Alli picked up a yellow card. He dove into a tackle against former Spurs midfielder Etienne Capoue, and while he got much of the ball, he followed through with his trailing leg on the challenge to take out the Frenchman.
The first 15 minutes were a bland brand of football. Tottenham working out the kinks of their new formation with a few scary miscues in the back, while Watford were unable to find their feet in the match. The game changed when Craig Cathcart in the 18th minute, with loads of time and space on the right side of the Watford defense, made a maladroit attempt to dribble out of the back. Tom Carroll applied the initial pressure, with Dele Alli winning the tackle. The ball plopped directly into the long strides of a surging Erik Lamela who ran off into a 1v1 situation towards the Watford goal. As Harry Kane pummeled down the right side of the pitch to join the attack, Lamela coolly slotted the ball into the right side of the goal, fooling Heurelho Gomes in the process and making him commit to the other post.
Spurs had the run of the play for the following twenty minutes. Save a questionable hold by Jan Vertonghen on Odion Ighalo in the Tottenham box, Watford were outplayed. Spurs weren't particularly dangerous, but were finding fields of space on either flank. Kieran Trippier was the benefactor of this and much of the build-up came through him. In the 37th and 38th minutes, he whipped in two balls that could have maybe been played more precisely, but troubled Gomes and the Watford defense nonetheless.
In the 41st minute Watford leveled. It was a goal that sums up the strength and stinginess of the Watford attack. Troy Deeny won a header at the top right of the Tottenham box and lofted it high and far into the path of Odion Ighalo. With Dier up against his back, and Vertonghen and Alderweireld on either of his sides, Ighalo was able to take down the floated ball, turn on Dier, nutmeg him in the process, and finish the goal from within the six yard box. It was a devastating illustration of the power and quick feet that the Nigerian possesses.
Right before the half Christian Eriksen was subbed on for Mousa Dembélé. The Belgian looked to aggravate the same ankle that he took a knock to on Saturday against Norwich.
Valon Behrami replaced Almen Abdi in midfield for Watford during the break. The second half's beginning was marked by a flurry of cards, five in all, handed out to the home side. Miguel Britos was handed a yellow card in the 52nd minute for a reckless challenge on Kieran Trippier, while Jose Jurado was carded in the 58th minute for pulling at Dele Alli on a Spurs counterattack. The linchpin of these offenses came in the 63rd minute when Nathan Aké committed a dangerous flying tackle on Erik Lamela. The Watford left-back left his feet, stabbed downward at the bouncing ball, and followed through high on the Argentine. It was a straight red and a deserved one at that. Troy Deeney picked up a yellow card one minute later, with Odion Ighalo securing one of his own by letting out his frustrations from a pestering Tom Carroll with a backward elbow to the face.
In the 68th minute both clubs made changes as Son came on for Carroll and Nyon replaced the recently cautioned Jurado. With a man advantage, Spurs attack stagnated. Watford sat in well and didn't give Tottenham a sniff. As time wore on Spurs were clearly frustrated by their inability to breakdown the Watford defense and in doing so, let the Hornets creep back into the match.
From the 80th to 89th minute, Watford imposed their will on the game. Alderweireld was booked in the 81st minute for a challenge on Etienne Capoue, while Nacer Chadli replaced Alli for Spurs' final substitution. The Hornets pressed on sending long ball after long ball down the spine of the Spurs defense. Ighalo, Deeny, and the physical Watford side's penchant for winning balls in the air, put Spurs goal under pressure, forcing a few punches from Hugo Lloris, and yielding two corners. The boys from Vicarage Road looked to nab the game-winner with a corner kick headed right towards Hugo Lloris. The French national made the save, but the ball looked to fully cross the goal-line before Lloris could touch it. Upon further review, the header in fact stayed out of Tottenham's net, but only by a hair.
Spurs answered in a magnificent and breathtaking fashion. Seconds after Watford thought they had won it, Tottenham notched the true game-winner. Kieran Trippier was played down the right flank and drove a cross into the Watford box. Gomes won the ball, but punched it right back to Trippier, who played the ball back to the exact same spot as the initial cross. With Gomes only able to get back to his feet, Son let the cross pass through his legs, and nicked it with the inside of the back of his right foot. The redirection went right through the legs of the Brazilian goalkeeper and into the back of the net. It was the epitome of a classy goal.
In the 93rd minute, Eric Dier made one brilliant block in the box for Tottenham to snuff out Watford's final chance. The game ended with a 2-1 victory for Spurs.
- Not Hugo's best game. As wonderful of an individual effort as Ighalo's goal was, Hugo could have been quicker off his line to make the save. He also looked nervy in the second half parrying chances he probably could have caught.
- Lamela keeps up his fine form and scores a goal too. What a season he is having.
- Spurs weren't able to really breakdown Watford's defense all day. Their first half chances were primarily off of counters, and they lacked creativity going forward when up a man in the second half.
- Trippier's best game in a Spurs shirt. As alluded to above, he probably could have been better with some crosses, but was central to Tottenham's attack.
- Ighalo is a beast and so it Watford. A gritty, tough, physical side, they gave Tottenham about all they could handle today.
- This match is huge for top of the table implications. Top four teams, dare I say title contending teams win like this. Massive three points today.