Tottenham Hotspur traveled to the Stadium of Light to take on Sunderland with what looked on paper to be a comfortable advantage over the Black Cats. It didn't come that easy for them, as Sunderland played them even until late in the match. Ryan Mason poked home the game winner late, and Spurs got their first win of the season on the road.
It was a Tottenham debut for Son Heung-Min, who started the match in the attacking midfield band with Nacer Chadli and Dele Alli, who also made his first Tottenham start. Christian Eriksen and Mousa Dembele continued to rehab from injuries and neither made the matchday 18. Ryan Mason started alongside Eric Dier in the center of midfield, and Ben Davies was preferred to Danny Rose at left back.
Unfortunately, Son's debut was pretty much the high water point for Spurs in the first half. Both sides had a very open half, trading possession, but Spurs were never really able to accumulate anything more than half chances in Sunderland's half.
Sunderland, by contrast, brought their A-game defensively. With former Spur Younes Kaboul anchoring the back line, Dick Advocaat set up the Black Cats to defend and counter through Jermain Defoe, and they did so effectively. Defoe had the best chance of the first half in the 26th minute after he sprung off of Toby Alderweireld into space and was clear on goal. Fortunately for Spurs his low shot went off the post.
Spurs' best chance wasn't much of a chance. In a scrum in front of goal, Son Heung-Min had a clear look but muffed the shot. Otherwise, Spurs weren't able to muster much offense against an organized Sunderland defense, and the first half ended goalless.
It was more of the same in the second half. Spurs continued to look pretty impotent against a bunkered Sunderland defense, and Sunderland continued to try and catch Spurs on the counter through Defoe and Jermain Lens. Harry Kane had a chance from six yards out that was smothered by Pantilimon, and Spurs had a few nice crosses into the box for half-chances from Andros Townsend, who looked lively as a sub for Son.
But it was the much-maligned Ryan Mason who saved the day for Spurs. In the 81st minute Mason made a gorgeous central run and Erik Lamela made a fantastic pass into space. Mason was able to poke the ball past Pantilimon for the lead, but it came at a cost: Ryan was injured on the play and was subbed off for Tom Carroll.
Immediately afterwards, Sunderland nearly equalized, but their shot ricocheted off the crossbar. Spurs settled down, played stout defense, and escaped the Stadium of Light with the win.
- This was one of Tottenham's worst performances of the season, quite frankly, but it's a win. By contrast, Spurs played their tails off against United and Everton, and only got a point from those two matches. That's football. I'll take the points, though.
- Jermain Defoe may be old, but he's still fast. If you're defending him you know he's going to try and live off your back shoulder. Toby got burned in the first half and Spurs were very lucky Defoe's shot went off the post.
- Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min looked like they aren't sure what their role is in this Spurs offense. Which isn't particularly surprising considering Son is new and Alli was filling in for the injured Eriksen and Dembele. But you can see the quality that Son brings to this side.
- My God does this team miss Christian Eriksen. Get well soon, Christian. We need you.
- Eric Dier is not only a good defensive midfielder, he might be one of the best players at the club right now. Another very solid outing from Eric, and I now understand why Poche has so much faith in him.
- Harry Kane will score. Keep repeating this to yourselves.
- Let's everyone give Erik Lamela the credit he deserves for that assist to Ryan Mason. It was great team play all around, but that pass was spectacular (and might have been no-look). That's the kind of stuff that Lamela can do when he's on his game.
Shout-out to Andros Townsend, who opened up Sunderland's defense with his width and crossing. He did well.
- Three points. Now let's go hammer Qarabag.