Tottenham Hotspur drew Southampton 2-2 on Saturday afternoon at St. Mary's Stadium in a match that was evenly contested, but could have gone either way. It was a match laden with #narrative, as it marked Mauricio Pochettino's first return trip to Soton since he left to assume leadership of Spurs this past summer. Hugo Lloris returned to the side for the first time in several matches to captain the team.
The first half was a mostly even affair. Much like Newcastle did last weekend, Ronald Koeman's Southampton team seemed content to back off slightly from the midfield press and give Spurs some space on the ball. Despite that, Spurs really didn't generate much in the way of offense for the majority of the half.
It was Southampton who opened the scoring in the 29th minute. Spurs did well to break up a Southampton counterattack by Sadio Mane, but it all fell apart afterwards. Ryan Mason got the ball just outside of Spurs' box, but slipped and gave the ball away instead of punting it downfield. Ben Davies, caught flat-footed, couldn't stop Graziano Pelle from poking an easy ball past Hugo Lloris and the Saints led 1-0. This is a goal that will likely be endlessly dissected, but it was pretty much clown-shoes defending from all involved.
Spurs' first "shot" came late in the half courtesy of Nacer Chadli, who's long-range effort went high over the ball in Roman Pavlyuchenko territory.
It looked like Spurs would take a deficit into halftime, but then Spurs made a superb play to equalize. Eric Dier put in an excellent cross into the box, which was flicked on by Harry Kane. Erik Lamela made an fantastic run to nod the ball past the Saints keeper to equalize. Instant replay showed it might have gone in off his bicep, but the goal stood and the score at halftime was 1-1.
Soton again opened the scoring in the second half: Shane Long, who came in as a mid-half sub for James Ward-Prowse, found Pelle who put a nice header past Lloris for his second goal. Federico Fazio, who is tall, was not marking him, which is bad.
The lead didn't last long, though. Nacer Chadli equalized on another nice pass from Dier, and the Belgian cooly slotted the ball past the Soton keeper. 2-2. It was Dier's second assist of the game. Unfortunately, Ben Davies was injured on the play and was stretchered off; Jan Vertonghen was moved to left back and Vlad Chiriches came into central defense. Later, Nabil Bentaleb was subbed off for Roberto Soldado in what we hope was merely a precautionary measure.
Both teams had chances to score late in the match, but neither sides were able to finish, and the match ended 2-2.
- This was the second consecutive match where a EPL team didn't press Spurs vigorously in midfield, and Nabil Bentaleb bossed the midfield in both games. I'm sensing a pattern here. Nabil was very good today. Let's build the midfield around him.
- Erik Lamela was very good today: he nabbed a goal, was direct, fast, tricky, and showed glimpses of the kind of player he was at Roma before we signed him. This is why I want to keep him around.
- There's a lot to unpack here about Ryan Mason. Suffice it to say that he wasn't especially good today, and he needs new boots. He had at least two major slips, one that directly led to a goal. Paulinho was apparently not in the side as his wife was in labor, but I really wonder what the match would've been like if he had started. And the 2014 version of myself is aghast at the fact that I just typed that.
- And look, I don't hate Ryan Mason. He's a perfectly cromulent young midfielder, and I'm pleased that he's come into the team. I'm not ready to write him off. But he's not the midfielder we want starting for Tottenham long term.
- Harry Kane wasn't much of a factor today. Not that he played poorly, just that Southampton did a good job of marking him out of dangerous areas. He did have that flick on Spurs' first goal, but not many chances.
- I'm more or less content with a point here. Southampton had a number of good chances but their finishing was atrocious. A point is fair, especially at St. Mary's.
- Eric Dier had two assists today, and played well at right back. Still would rather see him in the center, but he played well.
- What in the world are we going to do in defense now?! Heal quickly, Danny Rose, I don't want Jan at left back.