2016 had its highs and its lows, but Tottenham made sure they ended the calendar year in a positive way as they went to Southampton and won 4-1.
It was a hectic victory, but a needed one. The win sees Spurs return to a position just one point off fourth place and rivals Arsenal.
A 4-1 scoreline probably flatters the away side a bit. Spurs again had to come from behind after conceding the first goal. And the result was still very much in doubt until our flurry of goals late in the match.
Mauricio Pochettino’s starting lineup once again elicited surprise, and anger, when it was released on social media. For the second straight match Spurs fans were led to believe that Toby Alderweireld would be back in the team, only for him to be left out due to what the club are calling a “virus”.
Eric Dier partnered with Jan Vertonghen, and Moussa Sissoko came into the team for Harry Winks. With three games in the next week, the rotation certainly makes sense.
Still, Spurs couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.
Victor Wanyama conceded a free-kick, and Southampton capitalized. Virgil Van Dijk rose above Vertonghen in the box, and headed past Hugo Lloris. The Dutch international, who may leave St. Mary’s this January, was just too strong in the air. Only 69 seconds had passed and Spurs were already 1-0 down.
Tottenham were lucky to not be further behind after the next 17 minutes. They were sloppy and disjointed, but on 19 minutes they managed to strike against the run of play.
Moussa Sissoko ended up on the left side and put a cross into the box. It took a deflection and Dele Alli attacked the ball on the edge of the six-yard-box. He beat Van Dijk to the header and sent it into the top corner.
It was the definition of a goal coming against the run of play, and was one of a few quality headers in the game.
For Dele it was his 5th league goal of the season, coming on his 50th Premier League appearance. Spurs finished off the half by dominating possession, and almost scoring through Wanyama after the Kenyan’s smooth move into the box.
The second half was completely insane.
Spurs kept their hold on possession, and took the lead on 52 minutes with what was probably the nicest headed-goal of the evening. Harry Kane ended his run of three games without a goal when he got on the end of a Christian Eriksen corner. It was a classic header from our #10.
Then it really kicked off.
Dele was through on goal in the 56th minute, but dragged his effort wide. Nathan Redmond had tugged him outside the box, and the contact had continued slightly as the players entered the box. Mike Dean ran in and pointed to the spot. After a bit of delay, he also showed Redmond a red card.
It’s an incident which requires a few viewings. There is a tug back on Dele, but it happens outside the box. Those who claim Mike Dean is a Spurs fan will have a few more jokes to make, but there was definitely a foul committed outside the area.
Kane stepped up to the spot, looking to put the game out of reach, but he stumbled and sent his penalty high into the night sky. Upon further review, it was put over under sketchy circumstances. There was clearly a chunk of turf that was displaced on the spot as Kane planted to take his kick.
At least Harry was able to have a laugh about it afterwards.
On another night, #GrassGate might have been trending on Twitter if Tottenham had come to regret the missed penalty. But Pochettino’s men were eventually able to secure their three points.
Spurs, boosted by their man advantage, relentlessly pressured Saints. In the 85th minute that pressure finally culminated in substitute Heung-min Son putting the game out of reach. The assist was provided by Eriksen, as Son broke free and tucked one into the side netting of Fraser Forster’s goal.
Not even two minutes later, Dele bagged his brace and made it 4-1. Danny Rose embarrassed a couple defenders before providing the assist. Thus it was a happy ending to a crazy night of football.
Now, Spurs will have to move on from this chaos relatively quickly. They are in action again on New Years Day when they face Watford at Vicarage Road. They’ll be without Vertonghen and Kyle Walker, who picked up yellows today and will be suspended as Tottenham try to kick-off 2017 in style.